When the coronavirus pandemic worsened food insecurity in her hometown, Ekua Hudson, a senior at American University’s College of Arts and Sciences, decided to change it.

In Orlando, Florida, Hudson went door to door gathering donations to redistribute community groceries. Now utilizing her family background in farming, Hudson is tackling food insecurity in the District as the founder of The Food For Thought Foundation.

“I heard so many people’s stories. Redistribution is great, food banks are great,” Hudson said. “But, what we could do with the opportunity we have to raise money is make a structural solution.” FTF uses hydroponic farming to bridge the gap between grocery stores and neighborhood investment.

Hudson drew on conversations with DeJuan Mason, manager of Curbside Groceries, to better understand food supply and demand. She learned that even with the opening of new grocery stores, residents are likely to continue buying the same canned goods out of habit. “What hydroponics is is a method to bring growing into the city, to take it out of the hands of commercial farmers or big supply-chain agriculture,” Hudson said.

Using FTF’s after-school program, Farms For Thought, Hudson and her volunteers teach an agricultural technology curriculum at local high schools. Students learn to assemble a vertical farm that operates autonomously and can be controlled via Wi-Fi.

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