WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum opened a new outdoor exhibit, “Food for the People: Eating and Activism in Greater Washington.” The exhibit takes a deep dive into food justice issues and how they can be addressed.

Samir Meghelli, the museum’s senior curator, said, “It’s a way for people to get introduced to food justice issues, learn about the challenges our region and nation faces but also the incredible work that people and organizations are doing to transform the food system into a more just, sustainable system.”

The exhibit brings to light issues like food deserts in the District and food waste nationwide.

Museum Director Melanie Adams said, “Where we may have a hyper-local focus, meaning we’re talking about the greater Washington area, these issues are relevant throughout the world.”

The museum worked for about two years to get the exhibit off the ground, and the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the issues that were already present in communities.

“Even before the pandemic, there were issues related to food insecurity, and i think the pandemic just really highlighted those,” said Adams.

Meghelli added, “Before the pandemic, but certainly, since the pandemic, people have become more and more aware of just how important, and underpaid food workers tend to be.”

In the heart of the exhibit, a sculpture of hands honors the essential workers who put food on tables.

Meghelli explained, “Part of this exhibition is a hand sculpture which is a tribute to the millions of essential food workers who make our food possible.”

Visitors are able to leave messages to food workers at the sculpture, or food workers can leave their own experiences that they would like to share.

Further, the museum features people in the community who are working to combat food justice issues.

Adams explained, “This is just a snapshot of people who are doing great work, so what this says is there are a lot of people who recognize this is an issue, and usually what happens is, people have experienced it themselves and said there has to be a better way.”

While learning about what community members are doing about the problem, there is advice for how others can get involved.

Adams said, “What we hope is that people will be spurred to act.”

Meghelli added, “That’s everything from looking up and getting involved in a local community garden or getting involved in a local food council, which every resident can be involved in, to seeking out food cooperatives, local small businesses.”

As one of the featured community members, Beatriz Zualaga, explained, everyone working together will make a difference.

She said, “There’s a lot of people participating in the movement. not just the schools, not just early childhood centers, farmers markets, farmers, non-profit. it’s a community effort and that makes the difference.”

The exhibit is open until mid-September of 2022.