By Jenn Burka
Within a food desert in the middle of Ward 7 in northeast DC, Annette Ryan is in the new Everybody Eats kitchen baking granola bars. These granola bars are for a presentation Annette is giving about how to snack in a healthier way. No more reaching for a Kit Kat or a bag of chips from the vending machine – Annette is all about promoting snacks that have enough protein to keep you full and aren’t saturated with sugar. The snack should have fiber and vitamins, and should be tasty. These delicious granola bars that Annette is using to encourage healthy snacking are only a tiny part of what Annette is trying to do.
On Food Day, Annette’s growing vision for “Everybody Eats” will gain momentum with a series of events related to her dedication to providing access to nutritional food for all. Proposed Everybody Eats Food Day Events include:
- Eating real food on a budget at your healthy foods store and farmers market: teaching, problem-solving, tasting;
- Gardening real food where you are: Container gardening demonstration;
- Que What?: Quinoa and whole foods cooking demonstration and tasting;
- Kid Cooks: Healthy Snacks–Hands on cooking and tasting;
- Overcoming resistance to eating healthy foods: Teaching, listening, problem-solving, tasting;
- Everybody Eats: Who we are, why we are and how you can be a part of what we are doing: an introduction of Everybody Eats to the community.
Three years ago, Annette’s mother died of cancer. Her mother had been a food advocate in her own community, and her death was the catalyst that encouraged Annette to leave her job as a therapist and pursue her interest in food. Shortly after her mom passed away, she researched “social entrepreneurship and food” with the idea that she wanted to fight issues of food insecurity. Her search led her to Denise Cerretta in Salt Lake City. Denise had created the first community kitchen, which Annette is using as a model to build in her kitchen in Northeast DC.
A community kitchen is a place where everyone in the community is able to enjoy a healthy and high quality meal without discrimination. The eating area of the kitchen is structured like a café. The menu will have suggested prices and encourages diners to “pay what you can.” Volunteers at the café can work in the kitchen to earn food for themselves or others.
Annette worked in the Salt Lake City community kitchen for several weeks under their head chef. Although she has no formal culinary training, she grew up eating healthy foods and learned how to do canning, pickling and gardening. Her
experience at One World Café gave her the confidence she need to begin taking strides to open her own community kitchen in the DC area.
By continuing to volunteer at other community kitchens around the US, Annette was soon connected to Carrie Rich, who was also interested in opening a kitchen in the DC area. Together they created a small board of directors for their kitchen, which they are calling “Everybody Eats.”
So far, the project has been largely self-funded. Not long ago, Annette and Carrie began talking with Washington Parks and People, a well-established park partnership. Their mission is to build community through green space, so the Everybody Eats mission works as another piece to the sustainable puzzle. Annette is also looking for support from the local green high school that just opened in the neighborhood and community members. They are always looking for support in any way possible. If you’re interested in helping, you can visit their website.
Once the café opens, Annette hopes to have a staff completely comprised of volunteers. Annette and Carrie and the other members of the board will have to wear multiple hats to make this happen: Annette plans on taking the role of
executive chef and everyone involved is on the marketing and social networking team. The menu will have some ready-made items and some made-to-order menus that you might see in the cafeteria section of a grocery store. Annette says we need to show that there is a different way to feed low-income individuals. Traditionally, high bulk, low cost products have been the standard strategy for feeding the food insecure. Annette hopes to at some point be open for breakfast, but Annette says they will probably initially be opened for just lunch and dinner. The timeline for the opening of the café is being worked on right now, and Denise is coming into town to help out. She now works as a consultant for community kitchens across the nation and Annette has maintained a great friendship with her since she left Salt Lake City.
Annette hopes to continue doing events such as the one she is doing with the granola bars. She is quickly gaining a reputation in the community as someone to turn to for guidance on healthy eating and fighting food insecurity issues. Annette hopes that her café will be a place that attracts diners from all over the metropolitan area – not just those in Ward 7 where they’re hoping to locate. Her hope is that it really will be a destination.
Annette says “people know that there are hungry people, but they don’t realize that they’re not always homeless or jobless. Sometime people just don’t make enough money to enjoy a level of nutrition to hold themselves up by their bootstraps.” That’s what the community kitchen will be about: getting rid of those barriers by providing a place where truly everybody eats.