March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month we’ll be profiling D.C. based women you should know. Amy Morse, the founder of Ideas Club, is heading the project. Today she profiles Sarah Holway Bernardi and Lauren Shweder Biel. -ed.
D.C. is one of the wealthiest cities in the country, yet one in seven households struggle with hunger – disproportionately kids, young mothers and the elderly. Limited access to affordable, nutritious foods is linked to high rates of obesity and health conditions associated with chronic disease – bad for health and terrible for the economy. D.C.’s overall health and wealth statistics mask deep inequalities that negatively impact our most vulnerable citizens. What would D.C. look like if our society were organized around health and wellness? Today I profile the awesome changemakers Sarah and Lauren, co-founders of DC Greens. These ladies saw an opportunity to improve their communities; they took the risk, and invested the time, to launch an organization to shift the paradigm on food education, access and policy. DC Greens connects gardens, farmers, nonprofits, teachers and classrooms with healthy food education. Sarah and Lauren imagine a city with food education on the menu in every classroom; where doctors write prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables; and cityscapes are ornamented with urban agriculture. A beautiful vision – but one that calls for a redesign of our traditional systems. D.C. has passed significant legislation on food policy and urban agriculture, with backing from groups like DC Greens, since 2010 – check this out.
Sarah Holway Bernardi
Sarah is a Nationally Board Certified teacher with 10 years of public elementary school teaching experience. Formerly an art teacher at Bancroft Elementary, she coordinated garden and farm to school activities and participated in their partnership with the White House garden, where she and her students planted, harvested and cooked with White House chefs. Sarah serves as Co-Chair of the D.C. Environmental Education Consortium’s Schoolyard Greening Committee and is a strong advocate for making gardens fully staffed components of all public schools. Sarah writes and prepares advocacy materials calling for more staffing at school gardens – check out her recent article published in (the awesome) Civil Eats.
Lauren Shweder Biel
Lauren, an eternal optimist, who deeply values collaboration, is always searching for solutions that bring people together and are win-win-wins. Lauren is a strong believer in “following your goosebumps,” and has followed her passions into multiple spheres. Prior to DC Greens, Lauren was in a PH.D. Program in Anthropology at NYU and worked as an Educational Content Specialist at Sesame Workshop. Now, Lauren works to build a healthy and equitable food system in D.C. – she envisions a city where access to healthy food is considered a human right and where zip code does not determine life expectancy. In 2009, Lauren started a farmers’ market in her neighborhood. It was both a response to community demand, and an attempt to create a vibrant community space oriented towards kids. She had a four-month old baby, and wanted to make sure that he would build an early, positive relationship to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Women Sarah Admires
Julia Pfeiffer Burns was a pioneer woman who spent her life homesteading and protecting land in Big Sur. Julia spent her life deeply enriching and protecting Big Sur. As a homesteader, she knew how to do absolutely everything, raised all kinds of animals, and was completely self-sufficient. She didn’t marry until her early 40’s. She worked to protect the land that provided for her, and encouraged others to do the same. Sarah is deeply inspired by her life and also by Big Sur, the place she protected.
Woman Lauren Admires
Peggy Charren launched Action for Children’s Television in the mid-60s to fight against the commercial targeting of children by television media. She was just a mom who was fed up, so she organized her community to fight back. Her work created a grassroots movement that raised awareness and helped shift policies to regulate children’s media. That fighting (and organizing) spirit can move mountains.
Learn More and Get Involved!
DC Food Policy Council: @dcfoodpolicy
DC Farmers Market Brigade – volunteer to help get healthy food to low-income customers.