Alicia Cohn

Monday, October 14, 2013

D.C.'s healthy food movement

Original article published in The Washington Examiner: June 4, 2013

Maggie Gyllenhaal with Lauren Schweder Biel

Maggie Gyllenhaal joins D.C.'s healthy food movement

Get ready for more Maggie Gyllenhaal in the District. Not only will she be in town later this month to promote her new D.C.-set disaster movie, "White House Down," this week the actress officially joined the advisory board for the nonprofit DC Greens.

Gyllenhaal, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., made a day trip to D.C. on Monday for a tour of a garden funded by the nonprofit at Benjamin Stoddert Elementary School and a private party of about 150 people hosted by fellow advisers to celebrate the announcement.

Gyllenhaal has been involved with DC Greens behind the scenes for years, due to her friendship with founder and Executive Director Lauren Shweder Biel. They met when they were 17, were in each others' weddings, and Biel calls Gyllenhaal "a thought-partner" in the project.

Sign Up for the Politics Today newsletter! "While she's obviously an exciting public figurehead, she's also incredibly thoughtful and supportive," Biel told Yeas & Nays, crediting Gyllenhaal for being a sounding board throughout DC Greens' development since its inception in 2009. DC Greens now runs the District's experiential-learning Farm to School Network, supports school gardens and teacher training for garden-based education and runs an incentive program for federal benefits to help low-income families shop at farmers' markets in the District.

"I think we're well known to our partners and people who are receiving our services, but we're finally getting old enough and big enough" to bring Gyllenhaal on in a public role, Biel explained. There are no public events planned yet, but Biel said her friend "made it very clear that she really wants to be a strong ally in our work and will help out however she can."

Gyllenhaal is known for her support of progressive political groups and nonprofits, so her interest in the food movement makes sense, even though she's not a local.

"My sense is that it's kind of through me that she's becoming more aware of the issues of hunger and poverty and through our work coming to see how a city can organize itself to try and address those issues," Biel said.

Photo courtesy Lauren Shweder Biel