Young and old: Vinegar Hill Café aims for health at all ages

Two months after the grand opening of the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, community music and educational events are happening on a near-daily basis in the extensively renovated facility.

Now, anyone stopping by the Center on Fourth Street NW won't leave hungry. That's thanks to the Vinegar Hill Café, a restaurant owned and operated by the Jefferson Area Board for Aging that aspires to improve the lives of the city's youngest and oldest residents even as it serves up healthy and affordable lunch options for Heritage Center visitors.

“We do nutrition programs for seniors, and we also do nutrition programs for young children," says JABA community planner Judy Berger, who explains that the Café provides the meals for the YMCA daycare center and JABA's community center. She describes the Café's mission as sort of "preventative" health care.

"Even though we’re a senior-oriented organization," she says, "we believe if we can influence people in their early lives to live better and eat better and exercise, then by the time they get old enough to receive JABA’s services, they’ll be in much better shape."

The space is painted in bright red and yellow and a bank of windows floods the space with natural light. Affordable breakfast and lunch options include panini sandwiches– of which the turkey, pear and goat cheese sounds particularly delicious– and wraps, soups and salads, with plentiful vegetarian options.

"We try to incorporate local foods when we can, we try to incorporate healthy options when we can, and through the whole process, the money that we raise helps to support JABA’s services for at-risk seniors,” says Berger, describing the "intergenerational" inspiration of the Café, a place where people of all ages can come in, share ideas and inspire each other.

“Come in here, be diverse, say how you feel," Berger says. "It doesn’t have to agree with what anybody else feels.”

Vinegar Hill Café hopes to host events in the future to bring diverse crowds together. “Art displays, musical displays, poetry readings—we’ve had some folks come in and play music during the day,” says Berger, and encourages other artists and musicians to consider stopping by.

The Café is open Monday to Friday 8am-3pm, and Saturday from 9am-3pm.