It’s all part of the organization’s broader emphasis on treating all of its neighbors and patrons with dignity and respect, as it works to increase access to quality education, family resources, and health and wellness through access to healthy food.
For thousands of D.C. residents, that access to healthy food comes through one of the Martha’s Table lobby locations at The Commons—a campus for community programs in Ward 8—and The Maycroft apartments in Northwest D.C.
In March 2020, during the early days of the pandemic, Martha’s Table was providing shoppers with 500 bags of free produce and shelf-stable items every day. “Within a month—by April last year—we were doing 1,000 bags a day, and then by May we were doing 2,000 bags a day,” says Ford, 40, who grew up in D.C. and has been at the helm of Martha’s Table for two years.
Martha’s Table added 10 pop-up market locations in Ward 8 to supplement its two lobby locations to meet the increased needs of the community.
“We actually were supporting about 10,000 individuals—unduplicated unique individuals—every week,” Ford says. “That has started to lighten up, now. We're at about 5,000, which is still huge.”
Martha’s Table helps another 6,000 families through its Joyful Food Markets, monthly pop-ups held in elementary schools in Wards 7 and 8. School families can shop at no cost for a variety of high-quality produce, including bananas, apples, leafy vegetables, and sweet potatoes, as well as basic shelf staples such as pasta and beans.
Martha’s Table was born in the area of 14th Street NW as a safe space for children to access after-school meals. Today, food is one of the organization’s three primary program areas.
For the 18 months ending June 30, 2020 (including the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic), its food-focused Health and Wellness initiatives accounted for almost 40% of its $20 million program services budget.
Education initiatives—which comprise nationally accredited early-childhood education, after-school programs, and college and career readiness training—are its largest focus and account for 46% of the program services budget. Martha’s Table also offers Family Engagement programs to help “strengthen the home-school relationship.”
“Food justice isn't just about food,” Ford explains. “It's about transportation. It's about safety. It's about economic independence. These things all come together,” Ford says.