The Bainum Foundation rolls out a Food Learning Locator
By Jessica Wolfrom, Edible DC contributor
Last week, the Bainum Family Foundation rolled out an updated version of its Food Learning Locator, an online tool which works a little like Google Maps helping connect residents to food-focused education and job training programs across the DMV.
Whether you are interested in cooking classes that celebrate the food traditions of the African diaspora, curious about the food education available at your child’s school, or looking for nearby job training -- the DMV is full of events and resources like these. You just need to know where to look.
Launched in 2017, the Food Learning Locator was designed to help area residents make these connections.
“We found there was a wonderful abundance of food programming happening in our region,” said Katie Jones, Director of the Bainum Foundation's Food Security Initiative. “But the barrier was the ability to find these programs and figure out what your options were in an easy way.”
The new version of the Food Learning Locator has been updated to make the user experience more intuitive, including information about pricing and links to each program’s website and social media. The updates make it easier than ever to tap into the large and growing network of local programs.
“The tool is especially useful for partner organizations,” said Mayra Ibarra, Produce Plus Manager at DC Greens. “The job training creates opportunities for connections between community members and concrete steps to reach career goals.”
Founded in 1968 by Stewart Bainum of the Choice Hotels empire, the Bainum Family Foundation has supported early childhood education for kids across the DMV through scholarships, healthcare, and other educational opportunities.
When Bainum passed away in 2015, the Foundation was gifted 263 acres of farmland in Middleburg, Virginia. Originally, the Foundation planned to use the land to grow and distribute fresh produce to D.C.’s food deserts, specifically catering to residents in the District’s Wards 7 and 8. But the farm proved to be the jumping off point for what is now the Food Security Initiative.
“We knew when we started the farm that food learning was going to be an important corollary to food access,” said Jones. In the future, the Foundation plans to offer “on the farm” education programs to help connect communities directly to their food.
The food system doesn’t serve everyone equally. But with Jones’ guidance, the Foundation is committed in its investments that can help balance the scales. “We see our role as threefold,” said Jones. “One is that the farm is a demonstration site of what good food can look like.”
The second is to act as the intermediary between the mainstream food system and the emergency food system -- which Jones contends is a really big space.
“Our third role is being a convener and a knowledge sharer,” said Jones. The Food Learning Locator is part of this mission to connect communities to non-profits and educational services, to assist job-seekers in finding training programs, and even, to help the occasional home chef make healthier choices in the kitchen.
Founded in 1968 by Stewart Bainum, the Bainum Family Foundation has supported early childhood education for kids across the DMV through scholarships, healthcare and other educational opportunities.
Good food is a term that gets thrown around a lot in our organic-obsessed culture. But it isn’t as simple as avoiding pesticides. To Jones, good food looks like food that is grown in an ethical and environmentally sustainable way. It is food that serves both the nutritional and cultural needs of the communities that produce it. And it is food that creates economic opportunities for everyone -- from seed to mouth, from tractor to table.
“There's a lot that goes into creating that and were a long way as a country from getting there,” said Jones. “But it's important to have that north star.”
Good food is an idealistic goal, but Jones and the Foundation are working hard to prove that it isn’t an impossible one.
Jessica @jessicawolfrom is a freelance writer covering food, wine, farming and the environment in and around Washington D.C. She's also an Edible DC intern and student at Georgetown University, getting her masters in journalism. When she's not in school, you can likely find her sipping on something sparkling somewhere in the District.