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More Than Food...

Guest writer Chef Shanita McAfee-Bryant


"I know it’s shocking to read but it’s true that whether you have equitable access to fresh, reasonably priced food has a whole lot to do with your zip code."

To know me personally is to know that I am an EXTREME introvert, when people realize this about me they are shocked because they have seen me on interviews and Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen — there is no way, right?! I have extroverted tendencies but in the hectic, sweaty, hot, organized chaos of the kitchen — I learned to work it all out. All of my anger, all of my confusion all of my frustration, and all of my love could be expressed through cooking.


With the pandemic, civil unrest and uncertainty in my profession I honestly didn’t know what to do. In “Feeding the Resistance", Julia Turshen says “For some, activism is inherited and tightly woven into their fabric. For others, activism is a less ingrained part of life, a match just struck.” Julia’s words and the collection of short stories in “Feeding The Resistance” reinforced the power of food and made me realize that I am an activist and there is some activism in me! Julia was right, it's more than just food, food is the key to community and capacity building. It is evident in the legacy of Chef Leah Chase and the pivotal role the Dookie Chase Restaurant played in the civil rights movement.


I have never been comfortable with public speaking, I have always thought who cares what I have to say. I am a chef, it's only food, right? But this pandemic has exposed something that I felt the need to speak out about, and if not me then who? Was the purpose of my platform to sell stuff or am I an influencer and accomplice in this fight?


In Black and Brown communities we sorta knew about this issue but now who could deny it: food access is RACIAL … I know it’s shocking to read but it’s true that whether you have equitable access to fresh, reasonably priced food has a whole lot to do with your zip code.


For example at the start of this pandemic families in the suburbs were looking for toilet paper and paper towels while people in Black and Brown communities were looking for eggs, ground beef and chicken. Moms in the suburbs were looking for online activities while moms in Black and Brown communities were trying to figure out how they were going to afford and now provide breakfast and lunch at home when before they relied on schools for those meals.


Food access is not a luxury item and making sure our children and seniors have access to healthy food education and options is not too much to ask. Julia also says “To think deeply about food is to also think deeply about the environment, the economy, immigration, education, community, culture, families, race, fender, and identity. Food is about people, all people.” So here we are one year after the start of this pandemic and families are slipping into poverty, going from volunteering at the food pantry to needing the food from the pantry.

When it comes to battling hunger and food poverty are you an accomplice or an ally? What’s the difference? “Accomplices willingly accept the consequences and risk associated with collective liberation, whether emotional, financial, or physical. Allies center themselves and their intentions in resistance work, comfortably and temporarily, behind battle lines. This work must be done side by side with unrelenting and fierce solidarity, weaponizing privilege and understanding that true justice comes with civil disobedience.”- Julia Turshen.


If you are interested in becoming an accomplice, then I ask you to join me as we attempt to “Fix Our Plate”and Feed The Resistance.

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