dc food deserts

Grant Funds Help Businesses Open New Locations to Address Food Deserts in Wards 7, 8

Andre McCain, owner of HalfSmoke, and seven other local business owners will receive a grant from the District to open a location east of the river.

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As the holiday season rolls around and people begin to plan for Thanksgiving meals, not all families have the same access to fresh, affordable and healthy food. Millions of dollars in grants from the D.C. government are being spent to fix that. 

There really is no shortage of restaurants or grocery stores to choose from for residents of upper Northwest D.C. neighborhoods, but across the Anacostia River, it’s a much different story. 

Andre McCain, owner of HalfSmoke, a thriving restaurant on Florida Avenue in Northwest D.C., knows this all too well.

“Then and even now all we had for food was McDonalds or carry out,” McCain, who grew up in Ward 7, said. 

He and seven other local business owners will receive a grant from the District to open a location east of the river -- and McCain will be opening two. 

“We would not have been able to afford either location if it were not for the grant,” he said. “You have to convince investors. You have to convince banks to invest in that project and that’s a very challenging thing to do even if you’re in Northwest.”

Mayor Muriel Bowser touted the early success of the new grants Monday as she kicked off Black Restaurant Week in D.C. 

“One of our big pushes is for restaurants, retailers and groceries that have been successful in certain parts ofthe city like right here in Ward 1 to think about opening a second or third location in Ward 7 or 8,” Bowser said. 

For McCain, it’s about more than just growing his business. 

“We’re also able to create jobs,” he said. “It's very important for me to be able to go back and show them that hey, I was a kid just like you, walking these same streets, doing all the same things that you guys are doing now, and be able to tell that story and show them what they can do.”

There are millions of dollars in grants available to local food-industry businesses that would consider taking their offerings to Wards 7 and 8.

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