How to Support BIPOC Through Food and Culinary Choices
After a recent and continuing global call for racial justice, I have seen a massive influx of new allies and people excited to educate themselves, improve themselves, and support anti-racism. Unfortunately, there has also been extreme resistance to this change, both on personal levels within generations of families and national levels within the White House and police forces.
This country was built on a system that oppressed, and continues to oppress, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). As people protest in mass numbers to fight against these racist institutions, we all must work individually to allow societal change to occur. We must reflect on our own biases, educate ourselves, find online resources, remove ourselves from echo chambers of misinformation, reach out to those closest to us, and ultimately take individual actions to support this larger cause.
I am a food and health writer for Teen Insider Mag, so today I want to inform you about the many ways that you can practice anti-racist and fight for reform through your own eating, cooking, and shopping habits. Food has power. As consumers, let’s use it.
- Purchase food from black-owned restaurants
Taking this action is one of the many ways to support people of color through food choices, and this is one of the most straight-forward, not to mention, delicious options. There are tons of different websites and apps dedicated to finding black-owned restaurants near you, no matter where you are in the U.S. If you live in Chicago you can use this website to find not only black-owned restaurants, but also other businesses, services, and pop-ups.
When supporting black-owned restaurants it is also a great opportunity to learn more about the various delicious cuisines of Africa. From Moroccan chicken cooked in a tagine to Ethiopian tibs served over a platter of injera, there is a culinary world of possibility that many have yet to be exposed to in the United States. Misinformation about other cultures is often what leads to hate and stereotyping, so take some time to learn about others, even through the food you eat! Take this opportunity to educate yourself, support others, and truly enjoy these businesses.
- Boycott brands that perpetuate racist stereotypes and imaging
If you actually look at your food packaging you will be surprised to see how many racist stereotypes companies perpetuate on a daily basis. Many of these images have sadly become ingrained in our societal norms, but as consumers we can influence what hate companies are allowed to perpetuate. This article from Business Insider provides a list with just a few of the many examples of how racism is ingrained in branding. From Aunt Jemima to Chiquita Banana, people of color are consistently used as tokens and symbols of stereotypes in food.
To display our national disdain for that practice many have decided to boycott such brands until they change their logos entirely and apologize. None of these brands have made any of those major changes yet, so it is best to avoid buying or eating their products at all.
- Boycott brands that profit off of prison or indentured labor
While we are on the topic of boycotting, there are even more companies that perpetuate racism through actions other than their branding. Many companies profit off of prison labor, donate to anti-black and anti-gay organizations, and support political candidates who are racist themselves. While these signs of racism are often less apparent on the surface, they run deep into our food systems, and we should all work our hardest to avoid companies that commit such atrocities.
A recent example is Goya, a canned foods company whose CEO failed to denounce Trump and Trump’s treatment of Latinx people in the U.S. Read through this list or this list to find out about which companies profit off of prison labor by not having to pay those who are incarcerated to work for them and manufacture their products. From companies like McDonalds to Starbucks, there are hundreds that continue to benefit off of the same prison industrial complex that disproportionately locks away and mistreats BIPOC. Do not continue to support such heinous practices, even if that Pumpkin Spice Latte is calling your name.
- Support black-owned farms
While we may not think of getting our groceries from a farm, there are many ways to support local agriculture that don’t necessarily include a long drive out into farmland. Many people of color have started urban farms that are just steps from each of our neighborhoods, and they help to feed the community.
The Urban Growers Collective in Chicago helps to promote this practice and support farm stands like Wood Street Urban Farm Stand. You can volunteer your time at these urban farm initiatives to help plant the food, and you can also purchase your produce from them. Purchasing food from local farms also allows you to “eat with seasons,” and stay in budget, which has many benefits as outlined in this article. Outside of urban farms you can also order online from a lot of black-owned rural farms, such as Percussion Farms and Sky Island Farm in Seattle and Soul Fire Farm in New York. You can also purchase flowers or your own seeds for planting from Ebony By Nature. Do some Googling to find more farms and urban farming initiatives near you to support!
- Educate yourself on racism in the food and agricultural systems
The first step to creating change is knowing what needs to change. It is impossible to really support BIPOC through food if you don’t know the ways in which food consumer systems, corporate food production, branding, and the restaurant industry have all perpetuated and sustained racist practices. These systems have led to issues such as food deserts, a higher mortality rate among black Americans, and a higher risk for obesity, heart disease, and cancer among people of color. I don’t plan to write as if I am an expert on these issues, because I am not, but instead I wish to provide you with helpful resources to educate yourself with. First, start by reading this article about how race and food are intertwined. Then, read and learn about organizations such as the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, the Center for American Indian Health, the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, and the Indigenous Seed Keepers Network. If you are looking for a longer read considering buying one of the many books on this subject. From Decolonize Your Diet to the New American Farmer, there are many great books out there about food injustice, race, and how America’s food systems need to evolve.
- Support groups that fight for food and land justice
Once you have taken the necessary step of educating yourself on such matters you will likely want to take action. While we can take some individual actions that I have listed, there are also larger groups who have dedicated their time and energy to tackling these issues of food injustice for years now. You can support those who are already organized in this fight by donating to them, volunteering with them, and educating yourself further about their mission. This is a fantastic and comprehensive article from Civil Eats about which groups to support in their fight for food justice and racial equality. From the Family Agricultural Resource Management Service that assists Black farm owners in retaining land, to the Black Church Food Security Network that connects Black farmers to urban communities, your options are endless.
- Donate to food banks & organizations that work to mitigate food apartheid
While food justice is a broad topic pertaining to a myriad of issues, there is a specific issue that plagues countless cities and towns across the U.S: the creation of food deserts. For those of you who don’t know, “food deserts” are areas and neighborhoods in which the people living there have very little to no access to affordable, healthy, and nutritious food. Many prefer to now name these issues as a “food apartheid” instead, as that more wholly encompasses the breath of such inequality. Leah Penniman, of the aforementioned Soul Fire Farm, defines “food apartheid” as “a human-created system of segregations, which relegates some people to food opulence and other people to food scarcity.” The solution to food apartheid is largely a systemic one, as it has been linked to income inequality, education, housing policy, job accessibility, and health care disparity. As mentioned in the previous bullet point, taking action to support organizations dedicated to fighting those issues at a systemic level is a fantastic way to get to the root of the problem. However, if you are looking for ways to help in the meantime, donating healthy food to organizations that distribute it within food desert neighborhoods is a good place to start.
For example, if you live in Chicago you could donate food, money, or your time to the Greater Chicago Food Depository or to Breakthrough’s Fresh Market in Garfield Park. If you live in other parts of the U.S you could donate to the Los Angeles Food Policy Council or the Food Bank for New York City. Also, feel free to Google your city or town’s local organizations, and see what you can do to help.
Ultimately, there is a lot of change that needs to occur in a country built on the oppression of BIPOC. Racism, inequality, and the perpetuation of stereotypes has been so long ingrained into food systems, consumer choices, company decisions, and food accessibility. While we cannot fix this overnight, we all must take individual steps that collectively work towards solving these issues; If you aren’t sure where to start, try consulting this list or look for the many other recently published resources out there.