Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: Building a More Inclusive Food Movement

By Lindsay Smith, consultant, Washington Regional Food Funders

“Did you know that collard greens are the new kale? Or that offal is a fancy word for chitlins? This makes all of my grandparents foodies.”

Michael Twitty, at the kickoff of WRAG’s 2014 Brightest Minds series, was commenting on both the popularity of Southern food in contemporary American culture, and the lack of understanding that many of these foods were first brought to America’s table by enslaved people. According to Michael, in many instances these foods were not only the last pieces of African culture which they held on to, but the basis of the meals they made for their families and their white masters. These foods eventually became the foundation of today’s American Southern cuisine.

Into the 20th century, many vegetable purveyors, cooks, restaurant proprietors, and others in the food business were African American. In Michael’s experience much of that heritage, knowledge, and pride has been lost as African Americans migrated out of the South in search of new opportunities and professions. He’s worked with youth of color, using garden activities to teach about history and culture, and been told by a few that they didn’t want to participate initially because they were “not a slave.” He’s travelled extensively throughout the South where he’s seen many African American restaurants shuttered, and presented at conferences with several hundred people in attendance where he finds himself one of a handful of people of color.

But this can change, and there are roles for a variety of community leaders to play in doing so, including funders. Food brings us together. It can be used to teach about science, math, history, health, or home economics. And whether it’s collard greens from Africa or potatoes from Peru, food can be used to teach about cultural ancestry and build bridges between communities. In Michael’s words, true community can be built through food.

There’s a growing awareness that where our food comes from matters to environmental sustainability, workers’ rights, and much more. As community members and consumers, Michael suggests that cultural heritage and economic development should also be factored into our thinking about food. He talked about a white chef in the South who positions himself as the interpreter of one African country’s cuisine without any obvious attempt to partner with contemporary African or African American authorities on the cuisine. He contrasted this with an example of a partnership between a white chef with a farm-to-table restaurant and a local farmer.  The chef makes a hot sauce from the heritage varieties of a pepper first grown by slaves but now grown by an African American farmer. With these contrasting examples, Michael illustrates his notion of culinary justice.

Whereas food justice generally refers to the right to grow, sell, and consume culturally appropriate and healthy food, culinary justice extends the concept to include recognizing cultural authority over certain foods and traditions. This includes the right to benefit from one’s own foods and traditions. By embracing this notion, Michael argues that food can be used more effectively as a tool for community building and development.

To learn more about Michael Twitty’s work, check out his blog,

Vincent Gray announces $116 million in additional school funding for 2015

- In his state of the District address last night, Mayor Gray announced this his FY 2015 budget proposal will include an increase of over $100 million in school funding, to be divided between DCPS and public charter schools. (WaPo, 3/11)

The boost would allow the system to plow more money into [Chancellor Kaya] Henderson’s priorities: strengthening middle schools, bolstering literacy instruction at struggling elementary schools and improving students’ satisfaction with their schools, officials said.


Overall, officials said, they expect to spend an additional $17 million on middle schools. “We’re going to work to make sure that every middle-grades school . . . offers every student in every part of the city a full and enriching experience,” Henderson said.

The new investment also includes $77 million specifically to serve charter and traditional school students in a newly defined “at risk” category. “These additional funds represent the next phase of school reform in the District,” Gray said in prepared remarks.

“We must take another giant step forward to tackle the unacceptable achievement gap” between the city’s poor and affluent students, he added.

- With regard to that last point: D.C. school system’s gaping achievement gaps — in seven graphs (WaPo, 3/12)

- Part of that proposed $116 million would go to extending the school day by up to an hour at 40 low-performing D.C. public schools. (WAMU, 3/11)

- Most DC schools aren’t serving special needs kids the way they’re supposed to (GGE, 3/12)

- Montgomery County public school officials seem to still be at a loss as to why so many high school students fail their math finals. (WaPo, 3/11)

HOMELESSNESS | The recent surge in family homelessness was another big topic in Gray’s address last night. During his speech, he announced a campaign called “500 families, 100 days” which will aim to place that many families in rapid rehousing or permanent supportive housing by reaching out to landlords. (CP, 3/11)

FOOD | Our upcoming Brightest Minds program with Michael Twitty is going to change the way you think about food. In today’s Daily, Tamara writes about Twitty’s message that connects food, culture, and history to community empowerment and social justice. (Daily, 3/12)

WRAG’s Brightest Minds programs are open to the public. We hope you’ll join us on April 1 at Busboys & Poets’ 14th & V location. More information and registration here.

PHILANTHROPY | A growing number of family foundations are fully spending down their endowments in order to effect major change during the current generation’s lifetime. (WSJ, 3/10 – subscription)

Related: Yesterday, we announced the 2014 Family Philanthropy Affinity Group luncheon series for trustees and staff of family foundations. The first event is coming up on April 29. More information here.

HEALTH | Say ‘Aaaaa’: Mobile dentist office takes care of kids one cleaning at a time (WTOP, 3/12)

CHILDREN & YOUTH | Study: Boys Report PTSD When Moved Out Of Poverty (NPR, 3/12)

ARTS | Backstage: Keegan faces real legal drama over zoning for its Dupont Circle building (WaPo, 3/12)

If you took about a minute to skim today’s edition of the (Almost) Daily WRAG, here’s what happened around the world in the course of that minute.

- Rebekah

Government + Philanthropy + Nonprofits = Social Innovation

By Tamara Copeland, President

The often contentious relationship between the President and Congress seems to have found a solid place of coexistence in support of the Social Innovation Fund (SIF), a public-private partnership that takes community-based solutions to scale. Launched by President Obama less than five years ago, Congress increased its allocation to SIF this year by 40 percent, raising its budget to $70 million. In an era of budget slashing, I don’t need to tell you that that is no small feat.

While the government investment is important and significant, one of the key elements of the program is the 1:1 match of government funds with private investment. SIF grants funds to what are called intermediary organizations, typically foundations, which then raise the matching funds from other foundations and donors to invest in local nonprofit organizations.

Last week, Michael Smith, Director of the Social Innovation Fund, joined a group of WRAG CEOs to discuss the Fund.

Since its establishment in 2010, 20 intermediary organizations across the country have supported 218 nonprofit organizations whose work has benefitted over 200,000 people. In our own backyard, Venture Philanthropy Partners is an intermediary working with six local nonprofits to provide education and employment services to 20,000 low-income youth in our region through their youthCONNECT initiative.

With an investment of $1 million to $10 million per intermediary, the Social Innovation Fund is a powerful means of taking evidenced-based solutions to scale. But, as several of the WRAG CEO attendees noted, coming up with that match can be hard for many communities, including the Greater Washington region. Michael Smith agreed that the 1:1 match model may not work for every community. As SIF continues to grow, perhaps this conversation will be the seed of an innovation for the Social Innovation Fund. We’ll see.

For more info about SIF (which just announced its latest grant competition), check out this fact sheet and read Michael’s recent Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “Innovation to Impact: Obama’s Social Innovation Fund at Four.”

Michael Smith announced that this year, the Social Innovation Fund will utilize $14 million to explore pay-for-success models, or what are sometimes referred to as “social impact bonds.” This strategy will be the topic of the next CEO Coffee & Conversation on March 25. More information is available here.

Reflections from a Philanthropy Fellow: Sara Gallagher

By Sara Gallagher

Sara Gallagher is a 2014 Master of Public Policy candidate, specializing in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. Through the Philanthropy Fellows program, Sara has interned at the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region and Calvert Foundation. She shared with us her thoughts on her experience in the Philanthropy Fellows program over the past two years.

The Philanthropy Fellows Program is a great opportunity for philanthropy and nonprofit management and leadership students to gain meaningful work experience in the sector. The partnership between the Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers and the University of Maryland’s Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership matches serious students in paid internships with member foundations and corporate giving programs.

Last year I worked as a Philanthropy Fellow for the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region on a number of communications and branding initiatives. My work at the Community Foundation gave me an in-depth understanding of how these unique community organizations work. I also learned about effective collaborative strategies with cross-sector and regional partners to make broad and deep impacts on issues like education, hunger, housing, and workforce development. I actually applied what I learned during my Fellowship for a major school project: a policy analysis on workforce programs.

This year I am a Philanthropy Fellow with Calvert Foundation, where I work with the Strategic Initiatives team on the development of new impact investing programs. I’ve been really challenged by my work at Calvert Foundation because of their investment focus; a lot of what they do goes beyond my school and work experience. Regardless, I’ve learned about program creation and management, as well as how to use impact investing to leverage the financial resources of philanthropists, investors, and ordinary people. Impact investing is a powerful tool for social change, and Calvert Foundation has shown me how to use it.

My fellowships have allowed me to complement my formal graduate studies with valuable, relevant work experiences, and the ability to practice and expand on my nonprofit training. When I graduate this May, I hope to work for a foundation that strengthens the nonprofit sector through capacity-building grantmaking for effective organizations.

WRAG members: We are now accepting applications for Philanthropy Fellows program for Fall 2014 through Spring 2015. If you are interested in hiring a fellow, please contact Rebekah Seder at for more information.

The unintended consequences of D.C.’s affordable housing policies

HOUSING | There’s a major downside to two of the District’s policies that promote the production of affordable units in new condo buildings. Both the affordable dwelling unit (ADU) and inclusionary zoning programs do not protect owners of these units from steep increases in their condo fees. Many ADU owners are finding that they are now paying higher fees than they can afford, but, under the restrictions of the program, can’t feasibly sell their units and move either. (CP, 10/3)

Related: WRAG is hosting a Housing 101 session next week for members interested in learning more about the field of affordable housing. [More details and registration]

COMMUNITY | The Center for Nonprofit Advancement has announced the four winners of the annual Phyllis Campbell Newsome Public Policy Leadership Award. Among the four is Lafayette Barnes, director of the DC Office of Partnerships and Grant Services. The award highlights the work of public officials who “have gone above and beyond in partnership with the nonprofit sector to ensure more vibrant communities.” (CNA, 10/3) Congratulations, Lafayette!

TRANSIT | DDOT is really working hard to get the H Street streetcar running by the end of the year, but they still aren’t committing to an opening date. (WAMU, 10/3)

REGION | At $66,433, the real GDP per capita of the Greater Washington region makes this the seventh most productive metro area in the country. (Atlantic, 10/4)

HEALTH | Government continues streamlining new health exchanges (WaPo, 10/4)

- Greater Greater Education takes a closer look at the controversy around the spike in D.C. students’ standardized test scores. (GGE, 10/3)

- Ex-officials of Options Public Charter deny wrongdoing but cut financial ties to school (WaPo, 10/4)

- Adult charter schools must now track outcomes (GGE, 10/1)

SHUTDOWN | I really didn’t want to include anything about the government shutdown today, but WAMU was really digging for some new news and came up with the fact that two astronauts are still tweeting from space, despite pretty much all of NASA being furloughed. And they are tweeting some pretty amazing photos. (WAMU, 10/4)

If Congress won’t let us kill time watching our own cute baby animals, we’ll have to make do with this vicious little lion cub in Serbia instead.


The impact of urban segregation – and why it persists

EQUITY | The Atlantic looks at persistent urban segregation and the impact of the resulting concentrated poverty on people and the economy. A follow up piece is worth a read, too, as it touches on why segregation continues to exist (Atlantic, 8/14, 15):

We often blame poor people for their own poverty, and blame whole neighborhoods for the fact that government has systematically failed to invest in them… That story, which focuses on the faults and skills of individual people, ignores the fact that we’ve arrived at this picture of segregation for a lot of complicated, long-running, systemic reasons that are so much bigger than individual families (and whether they have dads or not). For decades, policies around who is eligible for home loans, where we pave highways, and what kinds of houses can be built in some communities have encouraged middle-class whites to leave the city and move into the suburbs. At the same time, ill-fated government ideas about public housing clustered low-income blacks in high-rise housing projects. Mass incarceration further weakened minority communities.

HOUSING | A new report from the Center for Housing Policy looks at housing affordability in the Greater Washington region relative to the wages of low- and moderate-income workers. Their shocking findings: housing costs far surpass wages. (WAMU, 8/16)

Related: What Funders Need to Know About Housing (WRAG, April 2013)

DISTRICT | Streetcar reboot promises citywide growth for underserved areas (Elevation DC, 8/13)

- Maryland’s comptroller is arguing that starting schools after Labor Day would provide the state a needed economic boost, thanks to last minute family vacations. (WAMU, 8/16)

- School Standards’ Debut Is Rocky, and Critics Pounce (NY Times, 8/15)

REGION | Leggett Elected President of County Executives of America (Potomac Patch, 8/15)

This seventh grade teacher is definitely a lot more fun than mine was.

If this video isn’t amusing enough for you, watch it on YouTube, pause it, and type ’1980.’ Enjoy.

The WRAG staff are having a retreat on Monday, so we’ll be back on Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

- Rebekah

Is fundraising driving inequity in Montgomery County schools?

EQUITY | Officials and parents in Montgomery County are concerned that private fundraising is driving inequity and increasing the achievement gap in public schools throughout the county, with schools in wealthy areas managing to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for new classroom technologies, like interactive whiteboards, and fancy playing fields (WaPo, 8/11):

Of the 126 privately funded school improvement projects in the county in the past three years, 22 have cost between $10,000 and $1.3 million, almost all of them in wealthier communities with fewer minority students. Of those 22 projects, 17 were at schools with lower rates of students receiving free and reduced-price meals, a measure of poverty, and a majority of the projects were at schools where whites and Asians made up more than half of the student body.

“You don’t want a system where you drive on one side of [Interstate] 270 and see incredible things happening and drive on the other side and wonder why these things aren’t happening,” said Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin (D-Eastern County), head of the council’s education committee and a former member of the Board of Education.

HEALTHCARE | Due to the divergent political climates in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, residents will have access to varying levels of help enrolling in health insurance when the insurance marketplaces come online on October 1. And, in Virginia, thousands who would otherwise qualify for insurance in D.C. or Maryland won’t in their home state, since Virginia will not expand Medicaid eligibility. (WaPo, 8/9)

Related: WRAG, together with a number of partner organizations, is hosting a special forum this Thursday on outreach and enrollment strategies across the Greater Washington region. [More information]

- A new study by Montgomery County Public Schools shows a correlation between first grade students’ academic performance, attendance, and behavior and the likelihood of later dropping out of high school. (WaPo, 8/11)

- Once common, perfect Va. SOL scores now rare with new tests (WaPo, 8/12)

SAFETY NET | D.C. may have illegally cut nearly 400 eligible people from Medicaid home care benefits in recent years. Advocates say the program’s bureaucracy “puts vulnerable people in peril.” (WaPo, 8/11)

Related: Situations like this underscore the importance of civil legal aide. Mary McClymont of the Public Welfare Foundation (and a WRAG board member) has written on this topic, and spoke with WRAG’s president about it last year. (Daily, April 2013)

ARTS | Vacancies Hamper Agencies for Arts (NY Times, 8/7)

HOUSING | Thousands of Marylanders are losing homes in second wave of foreclosures (WaPo, 8/10)

DISTRICT | The Secret to D.C.’s Stunning Population Growth? Old People (Atlantic, 8/12)

COMMUNITY | The Meyer Foundation released a statement last week on the sale of the Washington Post. Said Meyer president Julie Rogers,

The Graham family are leading philanthropists in the Greater Washington region. We have been honored to have them as colleagues and partners and are confident that their deep-rooted commitment to important local causes and organizations will continue. We also look forward to welcoming Mr. Bezos in his new role as the owner of one of our region’s most significant media outlets, and we hope that his own philanthropy will reflect that role.

PHILANTHROPY | Opinion: The Best Candidates for Foundation Leadership Often Come From Within (Chronicle, 8/9)

These photos make me feel a little better about sitting safely at a desk all day.

This week we are digging into some big projects, so the Daily is going on an abbreviated schedule. We’ll be back on Wednesday and Friday.

- Rebekah

Upward mobility linked to geography

- A fascinating new study compares metropolitan regions around the country in terms of economic mobility, and finds that in some areas, people born into low income families have a much greater likelihood of ascending the economic ladder than in others. The study found four factors that correlate with greater levels of upward mobility: the prevalence of mixed-income neighborhoods, two-parent households, quality schools, and civic engagement. (NY Times, 7/22)

Related: Housing Complex helpfully digs into the data on the Greater Washington region and finds that we’re doing pretty well relative to other parts of the country (CP, 7/22):

Children whose parents are in the 16th percentile (earning $22,000 a year) and children whose parents are in the 74th percentile (earning $96,000 a year) are both likely to end up in the middle quintile themselves…Now, does that mean everyone’s born to a level playing field? Of course not. Nine percent of the very poorest children will end up as top earners, compared to 36 percent of the very richest children.

WORKFORCE | On their blog, the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region highlights the HOPE project, a partnership between the foundation, Goodwill of Greater Washington, UDC Community College, and a number of area businesses, which provides skills training, career counseling, and job placement services to connect local workers with the region’s booming hospitality and service industry. (CFNCR, 7/19)

SERVICE | The Post highlights volunteerism in the region, with shout outs to a number of WRAG’s corporate members, including Booz Allen Hamilton, Capital One, Deloitte, and IBM. (WaPo, 7/21)

ENVIRONMENT | You might want to rethink buying that beachfront property on the Eastern Shore. (WaPo, 7/22)

HEALTH | Based on recent news articles, D.C. seems to be doing better than most of the rest of the country in terms of implementing the health insurance marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act. (WaPo, 7/19)

Related: WRAG’s Health Working Group, along with a number of partner organizations, is hosting a community forum on outreach and enrollment strategies in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia on August 15. This event is open to all funders and those working at community-based organizations and safety net clinics that serve the currently uninsured. [More information and registration]

- Lawmakers Debating How To Reform ‘No Child Left Behind’ (WAMU, 7/21)

- Poll: Parents don’t support many education policy changes (WaPo, 7/22)

- If the Silver Line ever actually opens, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a seat. (WaPo, 7/21)

- Gentrification in overdrive on 14th Street (WaPo, 7/22)

I’ll have to take it up with the Daily’s editor-in-chief, but from now on, whenever we link to an article under the headline of “aging,” I think we should also link to this video.

- Rebekah

Getting past implicit biases

RACE | Earlier this week, the Consumer Health Foundation‘s Yanique Redwood reflected on how she felt upon hearing the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, and describes how implicit bias impacts the lives of young black men, like her own son.

Yanique writes that there are ways we can begin to undo subconscious and automatic stereotyping:

I offer just two opportunities for moving forward from this moment. I would argue that the real work we have before us is the elimination of implicit bias, without which we can save our sons from more untimely deaths. The first opportunity we have in philanthropy is to consider dedicating resources to black men and boys, particularly in the area of racial profiling… The second opportunity that we all have is to get educated. We’re all affected by implicit bias. Negative media portrayals of black men and boys don’t discriminate. They get into all of our heads and hearts.

In her post, Yanique links to the Implicit Association Test, created by researchers at Harvard, UVA, and the University of Washington, which, if you have about 10 minutes to spare, is worth taking.

Related: How To Fight Racial Bias When It’s Silent And Subtle (NPR, 7/19)

ARTS | Arlington will receive a $75,000 “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the creation of a plaza that will be “a gathering place for residents to host a variety of community events and an area to showcase the neighborhood’s rich cultural heritage with its collection of public art.” (ARLnow, 7/18)

- A Boston-based community development finance institution that buys foreclosed homes and then resells them at lower interest rates is looking to expand into Prince George’s County, which has been especially hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. (WaPo, 7/19)

- The AARP Foundation has committed $2.5 million in program-related investments in three innovative programs that will increase the supply of affordable housing for low-income people over the age of 50. (Green House Project, 7/11)

WORKFORCE | Unemployment rates have ticked up slightly in Maryland and Virginia, which some think might have been caused by the sequester. (WaPo, 7/19)

SERVICE | White House Task Force to Seek Ways of Using Volunteers to Advance Policy (Chronicle, 7/16)

Not to encourage schadenfreude, but it is kind of amusing watching an alleged psychic utterly fail at being psychic.


New report finds racial disparities in arrest rates in D.C.

EQUITY | A new study by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs finds that African Americans in D.C. are arrested for petty crimes and minor drug-related offenses at disproportionately high rates relative to whites. (WaPo, 7/12)

According to the report,

…Eight of 10 adults arrested in the District are black, disproportionate to the racial breakdown of residents — roughly 47 percent black and 43 percent white. Nine of 10 people arrested on the charge of simple drug possession are black, the study found. And eight of 10 charged with disorderly conduct are black.

- The House of Representatives passed a new version of the farm bill yesterday that cut funding for SNAP from the legislation entirely. The House and Senate now have until the end of September to work out a final bill. (WaPo, 7/12)

Related: WRAG consultant Lindsay Smith explained how the farm bill is about much more than just farms after a previous version of the bill failed to pass a few weeks ago. (Daily, 6/26)

Related: Here’s a good explanation of the history of food stamps, and why they have been coupled with the farm bill for decades. (Bill Moyers, 6/28)

Related: The Post has a nice infographic on SNAP recipients around the country. (WaPo, 7/12)

COMMUNITY | The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has announced the recipients of its 2013 Graduate Arts Awards. The 20 arts students will receive $50,000 a year for up to three years to attend graduate school. Congratulations to the winners! (JCKF, 6/26)

HIV/AIDS | In an op-ed, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH writes about the potential for an HIV vaccine and the role it would play, coupled with other proven prevention strategies, in ending HIV and AIDS. (WaPo, 7/12)

ARTS | Americans for the Arts has released a new report on the salaries and demographics of local arts agencies employees throughout the country.

DISTRICT | D.C. Statehood Advocates Push For Bill That Would Put Money Into Fight (WAMU, 7/11)

EVENT | On July 17 DCAYA is hosting a workshop about evaluation and how quality data collection can increase a nonprofit organizations’ ability to receive major grant funding. [More information]

Natural disasters + animal attacks = best bad TV movie concept ever. I can’t believe I didn’t watch this last night.

- Rebekah


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