This is not a food story. On the surface the only real connection this story has to food is that a young man named Trayvon Martin was at a convenience store buying Skittles and iced tea. If it was a food story, we would be shaking our finger at him for eating junk food. We’d be scolding the neighborhood for not providing him a fresh, affordable apple. But instead, because he–a young, unarmed black man wearing a hoodie–got murdered, this isn’t a food story, but a story about justice.
As a health writer who often talks about the links between what gets grown and what gets put on the plate, I consider myself an advocate. I want to see people eating good food in close proximity to their homes. It never occurred to me that walking to the store—no matter what you go there to get–could get you murdered. And as a person who cares about justice, I never thought that in 2012, our system would care so little about seeking justice for this boy. He was somebody’s son. As the mother of a young black male who often walks to the convenience store by our house, my heart is broken.
As a person who wants equity and justice for everybody, I am just mad. But there is a teachable moment here. We who work hard in the food movement often work in the silos of our own passions and forget that justice and equity move across sectors. Place matters. Race matters. Humanity matters.
The other day a young woman I know who is righteous in...
Originally published in the Washington Post
Most food writers begin their tales with fond reminiscences of the great grub they grew up with: Mom’s Sunday meatballs or the secret recipe for Grandma’s beloved Christmas cookies. Tracie McMillan takes the opposite tack. She grew up in a working-class family in Flint, Mich., eating Ortega taco dinners and salads made with iceberg lettuce and Wish-Bone ranch dressing. The lesson her grandmother taught her was that any meal that took time or money to prepare — or worse, both — was for “fancy” people. Her father called them snobs.
It was only after a decade in New York that McMillan began to question the assumption she had been spoon-fed since childhood. On the poverty beat for a small magazine, she was assigned to cover a cooking class for city youth. There she met Vanessa, a classic “mouthy” Bronx teen who explained that, sure, she ate a lot of fast food. But she’d much prefer to eat broccoli and tomatoes — if they were affordable and easily available in her neighborhood.
That was McMillan’s aha moment. Why, she wondered, is it so difficult...
Originally published in the Amsterdam News
Over the past decade, as I’ve worked as a journalist and commentator on the African-American motherhood experience, I have become deeply frustrated by the lack of credible information and in-depth analysis as to why African-American women have had significantly lower breastfeeding initiation rates for over 40 years.
When it comes to the gold standard of infant nutrition—six months of exclusive breastfeeding—among Black women in America, the rate is only 20 percent, compared to 40 percent among whites.
The impact of fewer breastfed babies in the Black community cannot be ignored—the rates of asthma, respiratory infection and childhood obesity are skyrocketing among our infants and children—and studies prove that exclusive breastfeeding reduces the risk of these diseases. Even worse, Black babies are dying at 2.4 times the rate of white infants—a sobering disparity that the Centers for Disease Control say could be reduced by at least 50 percent simply by increasing breastfeeding among Black women.
Yet, the news coverage and analysis of this public health crisis has been mostly superficial, reporting merely on the sobering statistics but not delving into the complexities and...
Haile Johnston’s work in Philadelphia has been turning heads and changing communities for a while now, but his modest brand of leadership is something rare indeed. That quality is very much on display in two recent pieces of writing he’s done for the Grassroots Fundraising Journal and the National Urban League’s State of Black America 2012.
In the former, Johnston describes the critical juncture at which he decided to dedicate himself to social change: “There is this epiphany moment that those dedicated to service sometimes reach. I wondered, if my entire life was spent doing the good work of our community, would things be markedly different for the next generation?” But vision and strategic thinking, he explains, is only part of the equation; in the world of politics or nonprofits, he’s learned that you have to get comfortable asking for money and building relationships.
These lessons have evidently served Haile Johnston well at Common Market Philadelphia,...
This grant is important to us as it provides crucial funding in support of, as the press release notes, “a Direct Public Offering to raise at least $500,000 in equity for the market, and open the door to additional equity from larger investors, as well as debt sources.” In other words, the grant helps us move toward launching a creative grassroots community financing campaign that will expand our community outreach, strengthen our local relationships to Bay Area residents and leverage those relationships to generate more financial support for the creation of our grocery store.
This grant is also important because it further strengthens PCM’s relationship with the California FreshWorks Fund and its many partners such as NCB Capital Impact, the California Endowment and Kaiser Permanente. As as an innovative fund that aligns with our own company’s values of health, community, social equity and entrepreneurship, the California FreshWorks Fund and its affiliates are ideal financial partners that understand our mission and vision, as well as the kind of financing that a social enterprise needs. As we were told today by...
Originally published in the Washington Post.
At Jim ’N Nick’s Bar-B-Q in Birmingham, Ala., it’s policy that every day, everything is made from scratch: the pimento cheese, the hickory-smoked brisket and the lemon, chocolate and coconut pies. As if to prove a point, Jim ’N Nick’s owner Nick Pihakis refuses even to put a freezer in the kitchen.
It makes sense if you know Pihakis. At 53, he has become a fixture on the sustainable Southern food scene. He is a co-founder of the Fatback Collective, which describes itself as a clan of “chefs, pitmasters, culturalists and eaters committed to porkfection” and he regularly pals around with the region’s culinary royalty: Charleston’s Sean Brock (McCrady’s and Husk), New Orleans’s Donald Link (Herbsaint and Cochon) and John Currence of the City Grocery in Oxford, Miss.
One thing puts Pihakis in a very different league from his cohorts. Jim ’N Nick’s, a Southeastern chain with 27 outlets, competes with restaurants such as Famous Dave’s rather than fine-dining establishments. The restaurant’s average check size is $13. A substantial portion of its business comes from customers at the drive-through.
The IATP Food and Community Fellows Program is coming to an end, but it's springtime for our work growing equity in the food system and cultivating diverse leadership in the movement.