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DC tries to ice problem of "cupcake deserts"

This article was posted as an April Fool's joke.

Many residents of Southeast DC and Prince George's County must drive 30 minutes or more just to buy fresh produce. Activists concerned with public health have recently made such "food deserts" a social justice issue.

Food deserts have been eclipsed, however, by a far more widespread crisis in food security. Nearly all Washington residents must suffer a drive of an hour or more just to buy cupcakes from a specialty cupcake store, as a new report from the DC Office of Planning highlights.

Map by James Graham. Click to enlarge.

The report differentiates dedicated specialty cupcake stores from mere bakeries that also sell cupcakes. Advocates for underserved communities have long argued that cupcakes from shops making 50% or more of their profit from other confectioneries are usually inferior in design and taste. This gives residents of those communities a major disadvantage in their everyday need to enjoy a small, sweet dessert.

This shameful sugar disparity became the subject of a recent DC Council hearing catered by Georgetown Cupcake.

Councilmember Mary Cheh responded to this crisis with legislation mandating cupcakes in public school cafeterias. Jack Evans advocated tax breaks for cupcake stores, arguing that DC is losing cupcake revenue to Maryland and Virginia.

Not to be outdone, Marion Barry introduced legislation providing tax incentives to cupcake retailers who set up shop in underserved wards, and Harry Thomas, Jr. has a bill mandating diagonal parking and asking DC to analyze building municipal parking garages around cupcake shops.

To address the problem, one nonprofit is trying to turn a school bus into a mobile bakery which will travel DC's underserved areas selling cupcakes.

Due to the sweet success of the Redistricting Game, we will also launch a "Cupcake Desert Game." The public will get the chance to map their own locations for desired cupcake stores and share them with friends. We will then pass on these crowdsourced locations to the DC Council to consider as "Cupcake Enterprise Zones."

Dessert-equity advocates argued this should be the District's highest priority because of its deep effect on communities. The blog DC Devil's Food for All wrote, "It is a fundamental right for every resident to be able to walk 10 minutes to buy a $4 cupcake."

Ken Archer is CTO of a software firm in Tysons Corner. He commutes to Tysons by bus from his home in Georgetown, where he lives with his wife and son. Ken completed a Masters degree in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. 
David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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There is a fresh cupcake place in Friendship Heights, so you can eliminate part of Ward 3 from the dessert desert.

by William on Apr 1, 2011 12:13 pm • linkreport

Outstanding. Happy April 1st, GGW.

by Nate on Apr 1, 2011 12:16 pm • linkreport

This is not an April Fools joke... rather, this is an issue that I hold very near & dear. I require a full 5 minute bus ride or an excruciating 15 minute walk over almost flat terrain in order to reach a Crumbs. I refuse to burn such a small fraction of the calories which I choose to intake.

But more critical is my lack of taco access. This should not be allowed in a first world society.

by Bossi on Apr 1, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport mention of the tyranny of Hostess?
DC residents can probably buy "cupcakes" on every other corner, even east of the Anacostia, but committed locavores will note that the be-squiggled creamfilled cakes, sold so companionably in pairs (one for a friend!) are of questionable origin, both geographically and chemically.

by Reb on Apr 1, 2011 12:21 pm • linkreport

Don't know if this is an April Fool's joke but is this abut food deserts or cupcake deserts. Maybe it's a slow morning for me.

BTW, I've heard the complaint by everyone from community leaders to in some way, the FLOTUS. My experiences don't bear this notion of food deserts. I regularly travel the 10-12 minutes it takes to get to Eastern Market. I've even taken the 90 bus from Alabama ave. those of us EOTR do NOT have to travel 30 minutes for fresh produce.

Then again, maybe I don't understand what a food desert is.

by HogWash on Apr 1, 2011 12:34 pm • linkreport

That's an impressive map. Well done, James Graham.

by Rob on Apr 1, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

@Reb: Well if you're a true locavore, it'd be hard to eat a local cupcake. You'd need to be in an area that grows wheat, corn, sugar, vanilla, potatoes, dairy cows and whatever else you need for cupcakes, including flavorings.

by Tim on Apr 1, 2011 1:18 pm • linkreport

DC tries to ice problem of "cupcake deserts"

I think you mean "Cupcake desserts," but I don't see the problem.

by JewdishoowarySquare on Apr 1, 2011 1:29 pm • linkreport

Is it just me, or does a post like this -- while humorous -- also seem to trivialize the real problems with food deserts, corruption and civil rights that we have in this city?

by MDE on Apr 1, 2011 1:42 pm • linkreport

But access means more than just geographical proximity. From where I sit right now, I am within a two minute walk of a full-service cupcakery, with products named such things as "Pure Vanilla Goodness." However, if I were to purchase desserts for all of my meals here, I would have no money left over for shelter or transportation. So it's not technically correct to say that I have "access" to this cupcakery.

by Daniel on Apr 1, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport

In reality, what is the non-full service cupcakery on Wisconsin Avenue in the middle of ward 3?

by thedofc on Apr 1, 2011 1:44 pm • linkreport


by David Alpert on Apr 1, 2011 2:21 pm • linkreport

Can't we eliminate the tip of Ward 4 from this, as like with everything they cross into Silver Spring to get their cupcakes? Cupcake deserts are only exasperated more when Maryland has theirs right on the border!

by Jason on Apr 1, 2011 2:35 pm • linkreport

The amazing thing about this is the accuracy of the map. When Ken and David make a joke post they really commit to it! This can be an actual guide to cupcake availability in DC.

I'm surprised they didn't just, you know, for fun, develop a mobile app that integrates live Capital Bikeshare availability with realtime nearest open cupcakery data.

by Ward 1 Guy on Apr 1, 2011 2:41 pm • linkreport

"Nearly all Washington residents must suffer a drive of an hour or more just to buy cupcakes from a specialty cupcake store, as a new report from the DC Office of Planning highlights."

And once DC residents arrive at their nearest cupcake shop, they must spend hours waiting in line, IF they can find a place to park for less than $40.

The DC Council has applied to Congress for special funding to employ Maryland and Virginia residents as line-sitters to accomodate DC residents who don't have the time to wait in long cupcake lines.

by ceefer66 on Apr 1, 2011 2:42 pm • linkreport

@thedofc: I believe it's Something Sweet, which is on Macomb, just off Wisconsin (west side). They have cupcakes, whoopie pies, ice cream, and assorted other sweets. It's a nice little neighborhood place -- not a huge selection, but enough.

by Eileen on Apr 1, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

Pinkie Pie approves of more cupcake access for the poor cupcakeless fillies of Washington's eastern metropolitan region. I mean come on everypony! Stables of PG clamor for more cupcakes while the fancy stallions of Virginia and DC's western wards trounce around having their cupcakes and eating them too. There should be equal opportunity for cupcakes to all!

by Concerned PG Pony on Apr 1, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

@thedofc: Eileen is correct. That is the Something Sweet location.

@Rob: thanks! glad you like it.

by J Graham on Apr 1, 2011 2:55 pm • linkreport

@David Alpert 'Test'

No, not a test ... a 'quiz'. ;)

by Lance on Apr 1, 2011 2:56 pm • linkreport

We were having server problems and I was testing to see if the comments were working again. Everything should be fixed now.

by David Alpert on Apr 1, 2011 2:58 pm • linkreport

But what about Curbside Cupcake? They are clearly providing a valuable public service to these undeserved communities. Perhaps they too can be given huge tax breaks?

by Steven Yates on Apr 1, 2011 3:23 pm • linkreport

Don't know if this is an April Fool's joke but is this abut food deserts or cupcake deserts. Maybe it's a slow morning for me.

Yes, HogWash, maybe it is a slow morning for you.

by JustMe on Apr 1, 2011 3:31 pm • linkreport

Is there actually a James Graham? Here I thought this was Ward 1's attempt to fight for greater greater cupcakery.

...Either that or I just got sucked into the joke.

Also- agreed w/ Ward 1 Guy: kudos to the GGW crew for their committment to a gag! Also; I kind of want a cupcake redistricting game...

by Bossi on Apr 1, 2011 3:38 pm • linkreport

James Graham is the actual cartographer who did the map. That caption is not satirical.

by David Alpert on Apr 1, 2011 3:40 pm • linkreport

Cupcakes are highly overrated: why not just eat the whole cake?

by conservagirl on Apr 1, 2011 3:42 pm • linkreport

@JewdishoowarySquare: It is a pun, or a play on words. DC is a dessert desert.

by azmyth on Apr 1, 2011 4:11 pm • linkreport

@azmyth: I know. I was kidding.

by JewdishoowarySquare on Apr 1, 2011 4:34 pm • linkreport

I hope you will all join me in CupCakes Rising's new campaign to convert DC's overabundance of corner convenience stores to corner convenience cupcakeries. A job readiness training program will be launching soon to train workers in proper frosting techniques.

by djbays on Apr 1, 2011 5:48 pm • linkreport

Funny! Almost enough for the college students of this city to stop poking at Ken Archer-shaped voodoo dolls.

by Bitter Cupcake on Apr 1, 2011 6:30 pm • linkreport

I have removed a mean-spirited comment that was attacking the author of the post, not responding to any of the content of this article.

by David Alpert on Apr 2, 2011 9:51 pm • linkreport

First off, this was an awesome article! Hilarious! But, it's very soon to be outdated. Please update your cupcakery map to include the incoming Hello Cupcake at 705 8th Street, SE - we are looking forward to welcoming this great addition to Barracks Row later this month. All Ward 6 residents will soon have access to delicious cupcakes! I highly recommend the chocolate one with the whipped peanut butter frosting, but that's just my own unsolicited endorsement...

by Barracks Row Main Street on Apr 4, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

It is about time someone crushed the social justice craziness. Good job. Excellent satire.

by Brenda on May 9, 2011 3:33 am • linkreport

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