Lakeside Hope House

By Kimberly Lyons

Illustrations by Bang Ly 

Lakeside Hope House is an organization that believes “community is the opposite of poverty”. When asked to write about Food Justice it was important for us to include the insights of community members experiencing poverty.

We are all about accessibility at HOPE House in order to foster belonging and dignity within the community. We wondered if the term “food justice” was an accessible concept for all and so Kimberly sat with community members in conversation about what food justice means to them. She asked their permission to record their responses to the question, “What does food justice mean to you?” and to photograph their headshots to be rendered into pencil portraits by Bang. 



Kimberly Lyons, Communications and Events Lead, is a playful and unapologetic feminist and social justice worker, passionate about involving HOPE House in advocacy initiatives. Kim is also a certified Death Doula and fully committed to a life devoid of “what if ’s”.

Bang Ly –Ongoing Support Manager at HOPE House, is a portrait painter from Guelph, ON. Bang works in oils and pencils and primarily focuses on depicting the life and warmth of the subject behind the painting.

You can find his work on Instagram: Superbang

We Need More BIPOC Co-Ops

black and white photo of a grocery bag that reads "peope's free food program" between a women's legs

Highlighting Successful Black-led Food Cooperatives in the U.S

By: Ciana Hamilton

Food co-ops are one way BIPOC communities can reclaim food sovregnity whilst resisting problematic food systems. Cooperatives are owned and operated by groups of people or members. Members typically pay a small, one time, membership fee which allows them access to shop at the store, elect board members and provide input on products and services. One of the biggest impacts Black or Indigenous run food co-ops can have — is the ability to keep money within the community. Food Cooperatives do exist in Canada, but many remain inaccessible to the communities that need them the most. Here are three success stories of Black-led Food Co-ops operating in the U.S.

Mandela Grocery Cooperative 

Mandela Grocery, a Black-owned and led food co-op, has operated in West Oakland California for the last ten years. The full service grocery store is a worker-owned cooperative and provides fresh, high-quality food for residents in the community. Mandela Grocery prioritizes sourcing its food from Black and Brown farmers and strives to strengthen the community by providing an array of wellness resources. “We intentionally support businesses run by people of color because we are deeply committed to creating opportunity for interdependence in the food space, where POC entrepreneurs generate livable incomes that support their families.”

Check out Mandela Grocery here: https://www.mandelagrocery.coop/

Central Brooklyn Food Co-op

The Central Brooklyn Food Cooperative (CBFC) started in 2013 and is a member owned and operated food store located in Brooklyn, New York.The mission at Central Brooklyn Food Co-op is to collectively break down social barriers that prevent access to healthy and sustainable foods. Much like Mandela Grocery, CBFC prioritizes purchasing food from local farmers of colour. CBFC has a membership open to all and acts as a skill sharing hub to educate folks on nutrition and ways to overcome oppressive food systems. 

Check out Central Brooklyn Food Co-op here: http://cbfood.org/

Detroit People’s Food Co-op

The Detroit People’s Food Co-op (DPFC) is a full service grocery store set to open in 2020. DPFC is going to be Black led (not completely Black owned) with an elected board of directors. DPFC is striving to provide Detroit residents with access to healthy food and strengthen the food system within the Black community. DPFC will prioritize locally grown food in order to provide economic growth to Detroit’s fragile economy. 

Check out Detroit People’s Food Co-op here: https://detroitpeoplesfoodcoop.com/


A black and white portrait of Ciana smiling with her mouth closed. She is a 20 something black woman with dreads. She is wearing a winter coat, scarf and has a sunglasses ontop of her head.

Ciana Hamilton is a happy nappy freelance creative writer & journalist. When she’s not writing she can be found doing fun shit with her kids.

Afri-Can FoodBasket Food Justice

colourful illustration of fruits and vegetables. text reads "food is freedom"

Reflection from 2018

By Anan

Above Illustration by Favianna Rodriquez

Another year on the food justice journey with the Afri-Can FoodBasket (AFB). The AFB was founded 23 years ago in the City of Toronto responding to the cost of food being purchased by people of African descent (African Canadians) who lived in low-income communities across the City. Neighborhoods such as Jane & Finch (our home base), Lawrence Heights, Malvern, Jamestown/Rexdale, Regent Park, Galloway, and Thorncliffe Park just name some of the more recognizable “hoods.” 

We came to the realization that our community members, who are mostly Caribbean and African immigrants, were purchasing culturally specific foods that travelled many food miles. In this early stage of our understanding of sustainable food systems, we were not too concerned about the environmental impact due to carbon emissions associated with transportation — but rather the food insecurity associated with purchasing expensive food that is not in sync with a low-income status. Cultural foods that are more expensive than the premium priced organic foods are not accessible. At this revelation, we established the first African centered Food Justice Consumer Coop type non-profit organization in Canada. 

In 2018, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMFRA) commented, “Growing numbers of newcomers are creating new market opportunities for locally grown and processed world foods. People of South Asian, Chinese and Afro-Caribbean heritage typically consume more fresh vegetables and spend more of their household income on fresh produce.”

Back in 2009, one of our project partners, FarmStart (the innovators of the urban incubator farm) stated, “There is also room for more research and resource development around access to locally grown ethno-cultural vegetables, and also in the areas of empowering African Canadians, communities of colour and new immigrants to be included in the food industry, particularly in the area of sustainable agriculture targeting access to locally grown organic food market. Since income impacts household expenditure on ethno-cultural vegetables in the GTA, income enhancing policies could help to increase expenditure on and consumption of ethno-cultural vegetables.” 

Afri-can FoodBasket tent at Local Market

Fast forward 2018

After 23 years of cultivating partnerships and collaborations within our networks in the food justice movement —  it is our mission to assure the spread of sustainable food system education, food justice and food sovereignty among African Canadians. We believe that universities, higher learning opportunities and the local school system offer the most hope for constructive solutions to our community’s problems of lingering food insecurity. Since 1996, we have always engaged the youth within our community to become aware of our struggle with food security through our Cultivating Youth Leadership program (CYL). AFB promotes the sustainable development of Urban Farms and Community Gardens by nurturing a new generation of young leaders through the Cultivating Youth Leadership: Urban Farm Project. We work towards this goal by creating opportunities for primarily Black youth and youths from other low-income communities in Toronto. The CYL program helps expand their knowledge base, develop new skills and promote a positive engagement with their community.

Afri-Can FoodBasket will continue to provide leadership in urban agriculture, and foster collaborations to advance food justice, health and social enterprise in Toronto’s low-income communities. AFB’s integrated programs leverage one another as a means to create a holistic solution to address youth unemployment, youth leadership, and cross generational/cross cultural collaboration. These programs provide an avenue for marginalized communities to exercise self-empowerment and gain access to healthy organic foods. As such, AFB uses food as a nexus for the development of youths’ life skills. The youths plant a seed and watch it grow. They are intrinsically involved in the reaping of the produce, preparing it for market and the total economics of the farm enterprise.

At Afri-Can FoodBasket we find ourselves in an exciting moment of change and opportunity. The impetus for our move to the Black Creek Community Farm, came from recognition of the need to enhance food literacy amongst children and youth in Toronto. This recognition was met with the desire to transform our physical and social infrastructure to accommodate and support the needs of children and youth as they relate to food. We seek to provide a space and opportunity for children, families and youth to learn. 

AFB has animated over 100 Community and Back-Yard Gardens. We have developed two urban farm projects in Toronto & Brampton as part of a community food collaborative process with community members including: City of Toronto Community Garden program, Toronto Community Housing, FoodShare, Everdale Farm, York University Faculty of Environmental Studies, Ryerson University Food Security Program and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Our success makes us optimistic of our journey to realize our vision of being a leader in building awareness and developing sustainable and equitable food policy.

Our hopes and aspirations for the future is to first establish an African Canadian Food Justice Caucus to conceptualize our strategies for a more equitable place in the sustainable food movement in Canada and then establish an African Canadian Food Justice Centre. If you are not at the table of moving food forward, hunger will always be your meal.    

Afri-Can Food Basket recognizes that we are pioneers in this Canadian foodscape — not just advocating for the delivery of fresh, affordable, nutritious and culturally specific foods but for our leadership in the North American food justice movement. AFB is aiming to make race part of the agenda in the evolution of community food security in Canada. As we have observed over the past 23 years, the food justice cause has been the most challenging area of development in the North American Food Movement. The similar struggles and battles of the civil rights movement, people of African descent and communities of colour are often times an after-thought when it comes to the development and food security in North America. As can be seen by the urban food movement in Toronto — communities of colour are not part of the solution of this progressive move forward of creating a sustainable local food systems in Ontario and Canada. 

AFB response to this state of insecurity is educating our community to the best of our ability. 

It is our hope that Afri-Can FoodBasket, with the support and partnership of the Black Creek Community Health Centre, will be able to initiate a Community Food Assessment to possibly establish a Community Food Centre in the Jane & Finch neighbourhood. We will also continue our annual youth leadership engagement sustainable food system 101 program with our new partnership program – Harvest Kitchen: Food as Medicine, youths in the community growing food at the Black Creek Community Farm and cooking for and with seniors in the community.

A strong nation and a free nation can only base itself upon education. In order to make life worthwhile it is also necessary to acquire other things that can only come about after the acquisition of learning. Learning and technical training must be nurtured by faith in God, reverence for the human soul, and respect for the reasoning mind. HIM Haile Selassie.


Anan Xola Lololi is a Food Justice advocate, musician and a vegan. Anan is one of the founders of the Afri-Can FoodBasket (AFB) a non-profit Food Justice & Community Food Security organization that began in

1995 in Toronto. He has been the executive director of AFB for the last 19 years promoting CFS and Food Justice in Toronto, North America and the Caribbean. Anan has a master’s degree in environmental studies from York University with a focus on CFS and a diploma in Business Administration from Centennial College. His passion is working in low-income communities to help create food secure communities.

Spreading Food Knowledge

illustrations of various food. Sweet potato, eggs, lettuce, coconut oil, mushrooms, berries

By Ciana Hamilton

Eating well doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money. It’s a common misconception that healthy food is costly food and this false narrative can be a contributing factor to household food insecurity. One step to liberating yourself from oppressive food systems is learning about how food nourishes your body, how to shop for fresh foods, and how to prepare simple healthy meals. For me, years of surviving on little money forced me to learn how to shop and cook for myself. I was tired of spending money (that I didn’t have) on take-out or eating heavily processed ‘easy’ meals. I wanted to share what I’ve learned with folks who may find themselves wandering aimlessly in the produce section at the grocery store, or the person who avoids cooking because they were never taught how to cook.

Kitchen Essentials

First things first, you have to have the right set up and tools. Buying kitchen supplies doesn’t have to be expensive. Gather a few at a time and check out places like thrift stores, dollar stores or clearance sections at department stores. Here are some bare-bones basics to get you started: 

  • Set of knives
  • Cutting board
  • Can opener
  • Spatula, cooking spoon
  • Mixing bowl
  • Vegetable peeler
  • A medium-sized saucepan, frying pan and baking sheet
  • Tin foil (parchment paper or beeswax wraps work well too)

Cooking oil 

You will almost always need some sort of oil in order to make a decent meal. Trust me, you don’t want to make scrambled eggs with a dry pan. Your best option is going to be Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). Olive oil is high in healthy fats like omega 3 and 6 as well as monounsaturated fats. A bottle of EVOO can last a long time, so if you can, spend the extra money. Another great cooking oil is coconut oil. If your diet allows, butter or ghee are also great alternatives to oils and add extra flavour to most dishes. Avoid cooking oils such as vegetable oil and canola oil. These cooking oils are usually much cheaper but they are heavily processed and unhealthy.

Onions and Garlic 

There are very few recipes that don’t call for either onion or garlic. Having these two ingredients on deck at all times is crucial to making food that is full of flavour. 

How to shop: Buy a head of garlic every time you do groceries, you won’t regret it! You can also buy pre minced garlic that you keep in the fridge. Big time saver. Yellow and white onions offer the most flexibility; you can use them in just about any recipe due to the mild flavor. Red onion is cool too but tends to be sharper in taste and can be really noticeable in meals. 

How to store: I always keep my onions and garlic in a cool dark place. If you only use half of an onion, wrap the remaining onion in either tin foil, wax paper or plastic wrap. Put it in the crisper of your fridge and it will last an extra week. 

Canned and Dry Goods 

Buying canned or dried pantry items is a great idea if you’re on a budget and need groceries with a long shelf life. 

How to shop: For dry foods, it’s best to shop at a bulk store. Buying dried bulk goods is perfect if you live alone or only need a small quantity of something. Things like rice, pasta, beans, coffee, spices, flour, sugar and more can be found at most bulk stores. You can buy as much or as little as you want!  Be mindful when shopping in bulk — it can add up quickly. Remember to weigh your items to get a better idea of how much it will cost before going to the register. You can also bring containers from home to reduce your use of single-use plastic bags.

For canned food items, always check the ingredient lists for any weird or sketchy-sounding preservatives. Most canned items will have preservatives but there should not be a ton listed on the ingredient list. Always a good idea to check the sodium content as well as the expiry date. Canned items such as diced tomatoes, beans, tuna, and soups are great pantry items.

How to store and prepare:

You can store dry food in glass jars, plastic containers or keep them in the bag you purchased it in. You can start to get into the habit of using containers from other items like glass pasta sauce jars or large yogurt containers to store your dry goods. For canned items such as beans, it’s always best practice to rinse them well before cooking or consuming (mention why — sodium content?). Canned soups are easy to make since it’s typically just heat and serve. 

Spices and Seasonings

One of the hardest things for me in the kitchen was building up my spice rack. It’s something we often forget about but spices are absolutely paramount to cooking.

How to shop: Basic spices can be found at major grocery stores and are usually reasonably priced. Some staples you want to have are: salt, black pepper, cumin, ginger, curry powder, Italian seasoning, chili powder, paprika and turmeric. For recipes that call for more specific seasonings, hit up that bulk store and buy what you need for the meal you’re making.

Rice

Rice! Once you get this basic meal down, you can only go up from there. Your first pot of rice might be a bust but don’t fret, it will get easier and soon it’ll become easy! 

How to shop:

Buying rice seems like it would be straightforward but there are many different varieties of rice. It can be intimidating if you don’t know some basics. Rice can be divided into three main categories: long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain. Long grain rice types are light and fluffy while short-grain rice tends to be thick and sticky. Different types of rice have different flavour profiles as well; basmati rice tends to be slightly nutty in flavour while jasmine rice is subtle and sweet. The type of rice you choose should be determined by what meal you’re making. If you’re going for a curry or a dal, basmati is best. If you’re looking to do a simple rice and beans or fried rice, you want a white or brown long-grain variety.

How to prepare:

This is a basic guide and different kinds of rice will have different directions, but as a general rule, remember these tips:

  • Rinse your rice under cold water for about 30 seconds; it makes a difference.
  • Your base cooking ratio is always one cup of rice to two cups of water.
  • Using a medium sized saucepan, you always want to bring your water to a boil first before adding the rice. 
  • Once your rice is in the pot with the water you want to get it to a steady simmer before reducing the heat to low. 
  • Always cover the pot with a lid and don’t take it off. 
  • Set a timer, depending on the cooking instructions. You always want to set a timer.
  • A little water in the pot after the rice is cooking is ok. Let it stand for at least five minutes before serving.

Salads 

You can make a bomb salad in no time. I love making a big salad because I can get really creative. Salads don’t have to be boring; add ingredients like nuts, cheese, dried fruits, croutons and protein to take your salad to the next level.

How to shop:

General rule, buy greens that are dark coloured or have purple/red leaves. These kinds of greens include: mixed green varieties, spinach, arugula, radicchio, chard and kale. Lighter varieties of lettuce are nice and crispy, but far less nutritious. It’s always best to buy greens that look fresh. Avoid prepackaged salads that have yellow, brown or wilted leaves. 

Storage and Preparation:

Spend the time to wash your greens before using them. Your salad dressing is what will make or break your salad, so spend time finding a good dressing recipe and invest in the ingredients. If you’re buying ready-made dressing, check the sugar content. You can make a basic dressing with simple ingredients like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Cook in batches

Forget everything you remember about leftovers. I promise they aren’t horrible. Cooking big meals that will give you leftovers is the most efficient way to prepare food. It’s unrealistic to try and cook a brand new meal every day. Plus, a lot of food tastes better the next day once the flavours have had a chance to settle. Big batch meals can be made on a day you have extra time or you can invite friends over to help you cook and everyone can take some home. 

How to shop:

For a big batch recipe, make sure you are getting enough ingredients. Buy extra if you are unsure. Make a list or have a copy of the recipe handy. You will most likely need a big pot or a slow cooker.

How to prepare 

Set the time aside to cook. Have the recipe visible. Make sure your kitchen is tidy and start with the most tedious of tasks which is usually washing, peeling and chopping vegetables or making any sort of sauces. Put on some music and put love into your food! 

Some ideas for big batch meals: 

  • Rice and beans 
  • Curries 
  • Soups and Stews 
  • Chili 

Build a Bowl

We’ve all heard the hype around “Buddha Bowls” and although some restaurants and stores sell pre-packaged bowls, making a bowl is super simple, cheap and allows you to experiment in the kitchen.

How to shop

Think about ingredients you like and how to combine them. Rice, quinoa, shredded kale or lettuce make a great base for any style of bowl. Then start to think about layers. It’s best to choose ingredients that can cook all at the same time; this way you are not preparing a bunch of different things. My bowl go-to’s are usually sweet potatoes, beets, squash and brussel sprouts. Next, choose a protein. Tofu, chicken strips, beef, eggs, you get the idea. Now the most important part, sauce! Any bowl will need some kind of sauce or dressing to go with it.You can make a basic spicy mayo with just mayo, sriracha and a little lime juice!

Meat and Protein Sources

Your body absolutely needs protein, it’s no secret.  Whether you eat meat or not, it’s important to include a protein source to your meals in order to truly satisfy hunger and give your body what it needs. 

How to shop: If you’re an omnivore, choose a simple meat to start. Lean ground beef or ground poultry is a great starting point. Beans and tofu are great alternatives. Extra firm tofu is the way to go and can be prepared in a variety of ways. Eggs are another excellent protein option and very accessible.

How to prepare: For ground beef/poultry, you can find a recipe to follow or just wing it with some chopped garlic, onion, seasonings and vegetables. To put it simply, you want to heat a pan, put your meat in and break it up with a cooking spoon.You’ll know it’s done once it’s all browned and no pink remains. Drain any extra oil from the pan and season as desired. For tofu, I often find it easiest to bake, but you can fry tofu in some oil with some seasonings. Often underrated, eggs are super healthy and provide tons of protein. You can prepare eggs in a variety of ways: fried, omelettes, quiches, frittatas, hard/soft boiled and of course, scrambled.  

Nourishment 

It’s important to understand how your body processes food and what kinds of nutrients your body needs from food. As a starting point, you want to remember a few things. Your body speaks to you in many ways. If you ate breakfast in the morning but are hungry again shortly after, your body is trying to tell you something. Ensure that each of your meals contains a balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. Your carbs will give you energy throughout the day, but if you load up on heavily processed carbohydrates like bread and pasta you will feel a midday crash. Your energy sources should come from rice, oats, or vegetables like sweet potatoes. Your body uses protein in many ways. Protein is important for your bones and muscles as well as for repairing your body when it needs to. Finally, you want to incorporate healthy fats whenever possible. Healthy fats are amazing for your brain and were traditionally eaten to keep the body warm and full. Nuts, avocados, olive oil, peanut butter, full fat yogurt or milk are great examples. 

Cooking can be a very spiritual thing— it’s meant to be. You are preparing something your body needs with your hands and your heart. There is no shame in preparing basic meals that aren’t fancy or Instagram worthy. Put love and intention into every meal you make, even if it’s just scrambled eggs and toast. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.


A black and white portrait of Ciana smiling with her mouth closed. She is a 20 something black woman with dreads. She is wearing a winter coat, scarf and has a sunglasses ontop of her head.

Ciana Hamilton is a happy nappy freelance creative writer & journalist. When she’s not writing she can be found doing fun shit with her kids.

Restoring Indigenous Foodways

black and white illustration of two acorns and the plants accompanying leaves

Highlights across Turtle Island

Highlighting and shouting out Indigenous run food projects and businesses across Turtle Island.

Acorn Energy Bites 

Pomo and Miwok youth in Northern California are reclaiming traditional ways of harvesting and gathering acorns from nearby ancient oak groves. Acorn Energy Bites has been a project of the Tribal Youth Ambassadors in Santa Rosa California for almost four years. The project is a part of a bigger resource to teach Pomo and Miwok youth about ancestral traditions and cultural heritage. The youth – who range from grade school to college – harvest, process and then sell Acorn Energy Bites at a local farmers market. The Acorn Bites project began as a way to restore access to wild and traditional foods that the US government commonly restricts or prohibits. 

Mr Bannock  

Chef Paul Natrall, from Squamish Nation, has opened Vancouver’s first Indigenous food truck. Mr Bannock Indigenous Cuisine serves up award winning tacos, salads, and vegan dishes that use a range of fresh ingredients and are prepared with some traditional methods such as drying, clay and stone ovens. Owner Paul, is a long time chef who began his career in 2009. Paul works closely with Indigenous communities in the Lower Mainland; providing jobs, teaching, and volunteering at schools. Mr Bannock food truck began in 2018 and has been catering for offices and events around the city. If you’re ever in the Vancouver area go grab a taco or you can support him by purchasing gear on the website: 

mrbannock.com/gear 

Qajuqturvik Food Centre

The Qajuqturvik Food Centre (OFC) is redefining every common perception of a conventional soup kitchen. OFC, which is located in Iqaluit, offers a variety of accessible programs geared to combat food insecurity and empower local residents. The centre hosts a cooking club, a culinary skills training program and a community meal is served seven days a week. In addition to this, Qajuqturvik Food Centre provides a variety of other services such as free tax clinics, finance workshops, group socials and more. The centre has a dedicated team from full time staff to volunteers who are making all this possible. You can donate to OFC by going to: https://www.qajuqturvik.ca/

Miqmak Catering Indigenous Kitchen 

Norma Condo opened Montreal’s first Indigenous Restaurant in the summer of 2019. Miqmak Catering Indigenous Kitchen is Montreal’s first and only Indigenous owned restaurant. Norma initially started as a catering company but soon expanded due to popular demand. The menu at Miqmak Indigenous Kitchen has a variety of traditional recipes such as a three sisters casserole, wild rice and of course, bannock. If you’re ever in MTL go show her some love.

Plant Your Seeds, Watch You Grow

black and white picture of book cover. It has a sketch of two black farm workers. It reads "Farming while black: Soul fire farm's practical guide to liberation on the land by Leah Penniman forward by Karen Washington

A book review of Farming While Black

by Ciana Hamilton

When I first got my hands on Farming While Black, I felt my soul rejoice. I have always felt a strong connection to land; whether it’s a long walk in the woods or growing a zillion tomatoes in my garden. Something in my soul sets on fire whenever I find myself intertwined with the earth. Even though this love of land comes naturally for me, I can’t help but feel misplaced, disconnected and even hurt whenever I attempt to foster a stronger bond with Mother Earth. From the moment you open Farming While Black you can feel the dedication, energy and love that Leah Penniman poured into this book. In its most practical form, Farming While Black is a hands-on how-to guide for everything to do with tending to the land. Once you begin to dive deeper though you realize it is so much more than a generic farmers guide. Farming While Black is 16 chapters of beauty, colour and testimony. It is as pragmatic as it is reflective of Black peoples’ history, connection and rehabilitation towards farming.

Penniman described Farming While Black as the book she wished she had growing up. Throughout the chapters, she seamlessly integrates her years of farming expertise with her personal journey of finding true liberation working on and with the land. Chapters such as, “Finding Land and Resources” explores different points of access to land, whether it is leased, communal, bought or through a land trust.  In chapter six, you can find vital information on crop planning, transplanting seedlings and days to maturity for a variety of herbs and vegetables. In each of these more practical chapters, Penniman includes UPLIFT subsections that draw connections to African ways of farming and present day uprising within Black communities. In one chapter, “Feeding the Soil”, one UPLIFT section speaks on African Dark Earth, a highly fertile and dark soil that was created 700 years ago by women in Ghana and Liberia. Farming While Black is easily the best book for Black (Indigenous, Brown, Latinx) folks who feel the duality of detachment and yet, the desire to build skills in farming.

For most of us, it doesn’t take much to get outside and get our hands dirty. There is nothing really stopping Black people from contributing to urban community gardens or being involved with farm internships. But where the work gets tricky is when it comes to repairing the internal damage that many Black people carry as a result of slavery. In short, slavery has destroyed our relationship with land. That pain I sometimes feel towards land, is a pain that is felt by most Black folks across Turtle Island. It is the same pain that is shared with our Indigenous cousins and others who have been displaced at the hands of colonialism. It is the pain we often try to bury; and in an attempt to forget, we sabotage ourselves from regaining identity through something that has been in our history for centuries. There is no question that even Leah Penniman felt this distorted disconnection when she first began her journey of farming. The history of Black connection to land has been greatly misconstrued to fit a narrative of white supremacy. We are perpetually told and reminded that our only real connection to farming was when our ancestors were enslaved, exploited and forced to endure hard labour. Rarely is there a discussion around Black farming prior to slavery or Black farming after slavery.  Rarely is there any discussion on African culture and how intertwined our African relatives were with nature, land and crops. The space that Penniman dedicates towards healing our land legacies in Farming While Black is what sets this book apart from any other farmer’s how-to guide.  Chapters such as: Honoring the Spirits of the Land, Plant Medicine, Cooking and Preserving and Healing from Trauma are the parts of this book that invite readers to dig deep within themselves and recognize where healing needs to begin. In “Healing from Trauma “ Penniman said, “Many of us have confused the terror our ancestors experienced on land with the land herself, naming her the oppressor and running toward paved streets without looking back. We do not stoop, sweat, harvest, or even get dirty, because we imagine that would revert us to bondage.” What makes Farming While Black a book of true deliverance, are the constant reminders from Penniman, and all those at Soul Fire Farm, that farming is in our blood. Whether it is through the UPLIFT sections throughout the book, the wealth of knowledge (old and new) or the beautiful photographs of Black, Brown, Indigenous and Latinx folks working harmoniously on the land, Farming While Black is the reminder that our history in slavery will not erase our history of land stewardship.

I am a descendant of African heritage. The women in my family were farmers, caretakers and keepers of the Earth. Farming While Black is my awakening to remember and honour my ancestors. With every shovel of dirt, every seed planted, every vegetable harvested, I vow to never forget that they were proud people of the land and today, so am I.

Ciana Hamilton is a happy nappy freelance creative writer & journalist. When she’s not writing she can be found doing fun shit with her kids.

The Inaccessibility of Food Accessibility

by Julie Nowak

I’ve wanted to get into foraging for a while. It’s a wonderful way to connect with nature, help eliminate edible invasive species, and, of course, provide me with free food to eat. This is very pertinent, as I am disabled and without much of an income. While I’ve known about a couple plants I can forage, I need more hands-on learning to be able to really make foraging a consistent part of my diet. There is a monthly foraging meet-up in Toronto I’ve wanted to check out for almost a year; I haven’t been able to attend because it takes place in the evening, when I am at my lowest energy. Plus my social anxiety often prevents me from attending group events. I finally made it out to the last meet-up, however, which I was very excited about. We learned about edible roots like burdock, dandelion and garlic mustard. I quickly realized how much physical effort was involved, as I spent about fifteen minutes of exhausting, vigorous digging to get a little piece of burdock. It was a tasty treat to eat, but I knew I would not have the physical energy to visit the forest and dig up these roots – or at least not regularly enough to actually make a dent in my food costs.

The food justice movement is supposedly centred on accessibility – specifically food accessibility – with much dialogue around ways for individuals and communities to have increased access to food. While the long-term goal is to create a more equitable and sustainable food system, the short-term goals often focus on ways individuals and communities can more immediately access food – financially, geographically, culturally, etc.

Various approaches and strategies are touted as creating radical change and food access. Activities such as gardening, foraging, dumpster diving, bartering/volunteering in exchange for food, serving free food, cooking from scratch, preserving and bulk buying are highly praised within my activist circles. While I support these approaches, and participate in many myself, I would not put them in the category of “radical change”. There are several reasons for this, but I would like to focus on one in particular: inaccessibility. These quick-fix approaches require a multitude of things that many folks do not have: certain abilities, skills, time, energy, flexibility, space, upfront money, safety, privilege.

For example, I used to dumpster dive and barter frequently before I became disabled. Now these activities are too time and energy-intensive for me to do regularly. Other folks may not have the time or energy because of life circumstances, such as working two full-time jobs, single parenting, or being sick. Cooking, preserving and bulk buying require access to a kitchen and storage space, which many do not have. Gardening and foraging usually involve bending and physical labour, and gardens and forests are often not wheelchair-accessible. Many individuals (myself included) cannot usually accept free prepared food because of dietary restrictions.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t promote and participate in these activities. But we need to stop presenting them as something everyone can do. We are also delusional if we think we are fundamentally changing the food system through these particular efforts. Thus, I propose three ways to reframe the movement. First, we need to focus more heavily on the mid and long-term goals of shifting structures, such as policy change, poverty reduction, improving food sourcing, eliminating food deserts and building local agriculture. Second, we can simultaneously be implementing short-term initiatives, but we should creatively find ways to make them more accessible. Third, we must bring more voices into the food justice movement in order to be more inclusive and properly address inaccessibility.

These three propositions are not easy tasks, so let’s start by breaking down how to make initiatives more accessible. Here are just a few specific ideas of how you can make changes in your organizing to increase accessibility:

  • In community gardens, create wheelchair-accessible pathways and include raised beds so those needing to sit can participate.
  • When serving prepared food, cater to dietary restrictions (i.e. vegan, Halal, gluten-free, nut-free, alcohol-free, etc.) and clearly label ingredients. Consider providing options, such as serving several dishes with differing ingredients or using a buffet/build-your-own meal set-up so individuals can choose their own ingredients.
  • To increase access to cooking, preserving and bulk buying, provide kitchen and storage space. Also consider doing these activities collectively in order to lessen the upfront financial cost.
  • When accepting bartering/volunteering in exchange for food, offer sliding scale options. For example, require fewer (or zero) hours of work from someone with limited ability/capacity/time.
  • Share the bounty from your various endeavours (e.g. gardening, foraging, cooking, preserving) with those who cannot access these activities.
  • Before and during the planning of events and projects, seek out input from a variety of folks in your community to find out what initiatives are desired and how best to implement them in an accessible way. If you don’t have marginalized folks involved in your planning, you need to figure out why you’re not accessible to them.
  • Work creatively to come up with alternative ways of doing something. Inaccessibility and ableism are, in part, the result of a lack of thinking outside of the status quo, so get creative!

Accessibility means different things in different contexts. I’ve touched on just a few aspects of what it can look like in the food justice movement. Remember, though, that accessibility is an ongoing process, not a clear set of laws. If you view these suggestions as annoying rules to follow, you are missing the point. The purpose should be focused on people, not checklists. I admit it can be overwhelming to be faced with requests and recommendations, and I often feel incapable of accommodating everyone. Keep in mind, however, that it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Attempting some (or even one) of these efforts is better than nothing. Of course, we need to strive to do more, be self-critical, and listen to feedback. That being said, don’t let the fear of imperfection prevent you from trying. It’s impossible to achieve one hundred percent accessibility, especially when there are conflicting needs. Yet we can continually work at it, doing our best to structurally make space for this evolving process.


 

Julie Nowak
Julie Nowak is a Toronto-based food justice organizer, educator and writer who focuses on the intersection of food issues, body image and disability. This stems from her personal experience of finding healing from disordered eating through therapeutic farming and involvement in food justice, as well as living as a disabled person after a brain injury. Julie enjoys gardening, vegan seasonal cooking, and walking in parks. You can follow her at www.seasonalbody.org