DC food access grant to encourage new dining options for city residents

David and Alesha Magby opened their third Tropical Smoothie Cafe location in Southeast D.C. last week with the help of grants from the city’s Food Access Fund. (Courtesy DC Government)

David and Alicia Magby were loyal Tropical Smoothie customers for years before deciding to get into the business. Last week they opened their third franchise in Southeast with help from D.C.’s latest round of grants from the Food Access Fund.

“It has allowed us to build out Tropical Smoothie Cafe and hire within the community,” said Alicia. “The more we expand, the more we can bring people from the community up with us,” she added.

The program is aimed at closing the gap when it comes to healthy food choices for 80,000 residents in wards 7 and 8. An additional round of grants will be available in December and will provide about $11 million to restaurant and grocery store owners.

In all, $18.8 million will be allocated toward the program during fiscal year 2023. The smoothie restaurant is the first to open during the program’s latest round of funding.

Other grant recipients include Atlas Brew Works, with a new restaurant in Ward 8’s Bridge District, La Cabana Restaurante, a full dine-in restaurant and bar in Ward 7’s Skyland neighborhood, and Sandlot Anacostia’s new 25,000-square-foot outdoor cultural arts and entertainment venue.

“The Food Access Fund is changing the game for how we bring new food options to more DC neighborhoods, and we are excited to be supporting eight local restaurants, bars, and cafes as they open or expand Wards 7 and 8,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a news release last May.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we want to make sure we don’t lose any of the characteristics that make DC truly special,” added Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio in a statement. “That means investing in small and local businesses that offer exciting and innovative ways to address the inequitable access to quality food.”

As the couple prepares to open their fourth restaurant across from Morgan State University next month, they’re excited to continue watching their neighborhood thrive.

“There’s a lot of things that we do at all of our locations that impact the community. It was such a right move and we’re happy we made it,” Alicia said.

Business owners interested in the program can find out more on the Food Access Fund website.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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