New Book Starts Conversation about Food Equity
“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
How can we emphasize the positive impact of family meals on physical and emotional health in our under-served communities? What about the negative consequences of not knowing where or how food is produced? Is there a way to provide practical details of mindfulness training to these communities at the same time?
A new book, Mindful Eating for the Beloved Community, wants to address these questions when it is published by Arch Street Press in early-spring 2018
A diverse group of chefs, nutritionists and food activists, all involved in the Beloved Community, contributed to the book and its pragmatic strategies, according to Kellogg Fellow David Castro (KNFP-13), founder of Arch Street Press.
“Mindful Eating is focused on the theme of food justice,” explains David. “This collection of essays considers questions, such as what happens to food in low-income neighborhoods? How is diet a reflection of inequality? What areas are food deserts? How have major corporations created a fast-food economy that is destructive to health?”
The book also looks at the way food has been disconnected from the family and community. “For a lot of our indigenous communities and communities of color, there are many traditions that are actually much healthier,” he says. “How can these communities return to these food traditions? The book urges mindfulness, because we want people to stop, slow down and remember these connections to family, faith and community. If we can achieve that, we will quickly take the food conversation to a different place, with different outcomes.”
Partnership Leads to Movement
The idea for Mindful Eating dates back to conversations between David and another Kellogg Fellow Alex Askew, a recent alumni of the WKKF Community Leadership Network, the latest group of Fellows to join the Kellogg Fellows Leadership Alliance.
“Alex is an award-winning chef, who founded BCA Global, Black Chefs Alliance,” explains David. “He has worked for decades to bring communities of color to the culinary arts, because the African-American and Latino communities are under-represented in those sectors. We started to talk about mindful eating and systems thinking, especially about nutrition in under-served communities of color. Mindful Eating was the result of those early talks.” At the end of the day, Mindful Eating is really about empowerment and social change work for the Beloved Community, according to Alex.
“We wanted to create something that could have a sizeable impact,” says Alex. “It’s up to individuals, families and communities to figure out how to help themselves. But we wanted to help show them ways towards that empowerment. I think that this book could be a change-maker in terms of empowering communities around health equity.”
So, how did Alex select the other contributors for the book? “I have a large rolodex of people, and I know a lot of people,” he admits. “But the three main criteria were that everyone should have a clear idea of food equity in the community, some understanding of racial equity and healing, and finally that everyone would like each other, even if I wasn’t in the room.”
Alex spoke with 30 people to decide on 11 contributors. “Half of the contributors are current or past Kellogg Fellows,” he says. “All of the contributors are social change agents with a spiritual side.”
Why was this synergistic approach so important? David says it comes out of the Kellogg Fellowship.
“Kellogg Fellows always try to focus on who is in the room,” explains David. “Do we really have the leaders of this community here? Do the voices at the table really represent the community stakeholders? That’s the spirit that we applied to this book. It’s not that we have all the answers here, but it’s more that we want to bring everyone together in the room to discuss these concerns.
Alex agrees. “Mindful Eating is a conversation-starter, not a conversation-ender,” he says. “We want to engage the community in a conversation. We want the community to collaborate together on this important issue, and we are excited by the potential results.”
The team is working on a book launch on Martin Luther King’s Day in Atlanta in 2018. Also in spring 2018, they are launching an initiative in Michigan around the beloved community. With the Washington D.C. public school system, they are launching a pilot program for engaging teachers, parents and students. This model system can then be benchmarked, tested and replicated in other cities.
Would you like to support this effort and host an event? Contact Alex at Alex@bcaglobal.org.
Contributors to Mindful Eating
Alex Askew (CLN-01), Founder, BCA Global, Black Chefs Alliance; WKKF Community Leadership Network
Anzia Bennett (CLN-01), Principal of AMB Community Consulting; WKKF Community Leadership Network
Chris Block (KNLP-16), CEO of American Leadership Forum Silicon Valley; W.K. Kellogg Foundation Fellow
Jodi Brockington, “Judgement free” fitness and wellness trainer for busy New York City executives
Michael S. Easterling, Chairs academics committee of Farm School NYC, a two-year certificate program in urban agriculture funded by USDA New Farmer / New Rancher grant
Kevin Fong (KNFP-14), Nationally recognized and respected facilitator, trainer and speaker in leadership, executive development and organizational systems; W.K. Kellogg Foundation fellow
Adam Joseph, Culinary instructor at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia
Njathi Kabui, Organic chef based in Durham, North Carolina, born in Kenya, where his family has been involved in food production for generations
Brealynn Lee, Le Cordon Bleu-trained executive culinary chef and executive pastry chef specializing in chocolate
Claude E. Nunn III, President of Nunn Better Nutrition and has been a certified executive chef/working chef for 45 years throughout the United States and internationally
Jonathan Rinehart Sr. (CLN-01), Case manager for Behavioral Health Department of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribe, WKKF Community Leadership Network
Victor A. Ruiz (CLN-01), Executive director of Esperanza, Inc., working to improve academic achievements of Hispanics in Greater Cleveland, WKKF Community Leadership Network