The Hope Chest
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The Hope Chest

Serving Up Food for Thought: The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum Welcome’s Vistor’s Indoors for Ongoing “Food for the People” Exhibition.

Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

Have you ever wondered who the countless names and faces are behind our city’s food production? The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum takes a deep dive with the in- gallery exhibition “ “Food for the People: Eating and Activism in Greater Washington.

The museum reopened its doors earlier this month with a comprehensive and thought-provoking examination of our food system.

The outdoor segment of the exhibition, which debuted earlier this year, provided viewers with a snapshot into the region’s ongoing food disparities surrounding access, and the individuals working to create a more just and sustainable system.

“Given the dynamics of COVID-19 and racial unrest throughout the country, we are more dedicated than ever to uncovering and sharing the voices of the underrepresented,” said Melanie Adams, director of the Anacostia Community Museum.

The museum’s decision to display both an indoor and outdoor exhibition is ideal for community engagement. With the ongoing pandemic, the indoor/outdoor hybrid of “Food for the People,” provides a nice option for visitors who may be hesitant about venturing in. However, the in-gallery exhibition is a one-of kind experience for families to interact with.

The Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum’s Chief Curator Dr. Samir Meghelli

“We did find new ways to connect outdoors and virtually, but in reopening, are pleased to again welcome guests in our galleries and hope this exhibition will both teach and inspire visitors into action against food inequality in their community.”

The museum’s intimate circular construction is ideal for viewing the documents, video, and experiencing the interactive exhibits that draw key parallels to slavery, sharecropping, and today’s migrant workers. A unique highlight of the exhibition surrounds tomato picking, called The Tomato Race. Visitors set a timer and race to put their tomatoes in a basket. The exhibit is displayed underneath a television screen showcasing workers doing the same task. The number of tomatoes picked within a given time is a demonstration to the conditions migrant farmers work under each day. This immersive experience leaves visitors with a greater sense of empathy to those in the fields.

“This exhibition reveals the stark inequalities and inner workings of the DC region’s food system: from the workers who make our food possible to the disparities in access to fresh, healthy food,” said Samir Meghelli, curator of “Food for the People.”

“For more than two years, we’ve interviewed a wide range of food-justice organizers, nonprofit leaders, farmers, food workers and policymakers to better understand the issues and offer a window onto the world behind our food-where it comes from, whose labor makes it possible, its environmental and health consequences and ideas on how to make it better.”

With all there is to see and do inside the gallery, Dr. Meghelli hopes that visitors will also walk away more informed, and find inspiration in the legacy of activism surrounding these important issues.

The museum has a variety of programs to accompany the exhibition’s underlying call for community wellness. A personal favorite is the gardening series. One of the greatest forms of liberation is cultivating your own food. You can explore more events here.

Some additional highlights include:

·An illustrative journey through the food system of a Washington favorite-a chicken wing-from chick to discarded bones after a meal.

· A look back at community-run efforts like the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast Program for Children, the Community for Creative Non-Violence’s hunger strikes against food waste and the National Welfare Rights Organization headed by Etta Horn, a Barry Farm Dwellings resident who helped push hunger and racism onto the national agenda-all precursors to present-day organizations such as DC Central Kitchen and DC Greens.

· Exploration of historical and present-day inequities faced by the laborers who produce, process, and serve the nation’s food-from farm to table-and highlighting the essential work they do, particularly in the context of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“Food for the People: Eating and Activism in Greater Washington, D.C.” will be on display until September 17, 2022.

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