Martha’s Table has been making a difference in the lives of children and their families for 42 years. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit began in 1980 with a mission to promote family success and food justice across the nation’s capital.
Although it began as simply a place for children to come for free food after school, Martha’s Table is now a multiple-mission organization with various locations that not only offers healthy food but operates nationally-accredited education programs. The nonprofit also fights for food justice for more than 20,000 residents and promotes family success with a goal of “strong children, strong families, and strong communities.”
Martha’s Table has numerous ways of distributing food to those who need it across the city, including a mobile food truck and an in-school partnership with Target.
From McKenna’s Wagon, a food truck that rolls out seven days a week to known food desert neighborhoods, to daily Martha’s Table Markets and monthly Joyful Food Markets, the organization hopes to make healthy food easily accessible.
The organization also offers Mobile Markets, which travel to elementary schools throughout D.C., where children and their parents can fill grocery bags to feed their families. The emphasis is on healthy eating, including a better understanding of the importance of fruits and vegetables, a balanced diet, and where our food is grown.
The group’s dedication to D.C. school kids includes not only food but accredited education programs and family assistance. Martha’s Table offers everything from tutoring to help with homework through its early childhood education programs focusing on math and reading skills. The nonprofit also gives each child who enrolls $1,000 via a D.C. College Savings Plan 529 account.
In addition to the education programs, Martha’s Table offers emotional wellness support and is the provider of the city’s recently-announced direct cash support system for new and expecting mothers.
“Martha’s Table is 100% with the community, for the community, and by the community,” explained David Pensky, vice chair of the board of directors.
Though not a religious organization, Martha’s Table was named after Martha from the Bible, who was a follower and friend of Jesus. The group’s founders chose the name to represent the dignity of serving those in need. Martha’s Table has positively impacted so many D.C. families by doing just that: serving. In fact, in 2020, the nonprofit served more than 70,000 meals in just three months at the beginning of the COVID pandemic and continues to see the need grow during recovery.
“We want to change the narrative and lead by example so that the community sees and does the same thing,” said Joe Houston, Martha’s Table community council member.