Black Woman Receives $150K Grant to Bring Food Hall to DC

In March, Essence and Pine-Sol announced a Build Your Legacy contest for Black Women "to invest in women, who are the backbone of their communities and who are contributing to the positive economic impact, right there, where they live." The contest saw 600 participants fight to win the grand prize of $100K. Essence and Pine-Sol increased their commitment and decided to up the prize to $150K for the first place winner. The two semi-finalists received $15K a piece and an additional 7 entrants received $10K a piece.

The big winner is Mary Blackford, a DC native and resident. She is the founder of Market 7, that has a mission of "revitalizing and restoring the economic stability, holistic health, and the social needs of the residents in Ward 7 by developing sustainable commerce within the community." This project has been 3 years in the making and has over 60 Black-owned businesses in the DMV area to create a shopping place that houses fresh food, lifestyle products, and home items. This is huge because Wards 7 and 8 in DC, which are largely populated by our people are both food deserts; having only 3 grocery stores between the two wards total. To put that into perspective, more than 80% of Ward 7 residents travel to Ward 6 or Maryland to do their grocery shopping.

Mary Blackford said in an interview with NBC 4, "DC showed out! We received far more support than we could have ever imagined." The Mayor tweeted out support, a first grade teacher, and even colleagues in South Africa voted for Mary to win. She said she felt like she was campaigning for the votes and could run for office after this.

Market 7 upon development will be a 7,000 sq ft food hall that will house a community grocery store and food stalls that will represent culinary favorites from across the Diaspora. The goal of the food hall is to minimize the impact of the area being labeled a food desert in by creating a marketplace with products and food concepts curated by Black-owned businesses, promote a healthy lifestyle, and build an audience of support for Black entrepreneurs with a goal of creating access to educational resources, inspire innovation, and build profitable enterprises.

The ground for Market 7 was broken in December of 2019 at 3451 Benning Rd. NE. Blackford said in an interview with NBC, "The money will go to stall spaces because construction costs are the barrier for retail business getting up and running."

Market 7 is set to open in 2021. Stay patient a little longer DC, change is coming!!! Congrats again to Mary and Market 7.

Image Source: @Market7DC on Twitter

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