Last year City Pages declared that “Grow Food” was the Best Viral Video of 2017. The music video was created by North Minneapolis teenagers as part of an Appetite for Change (AFC) summer youth employment and training program. A few of the lyrics:
See in my hood there ain’t really much to eat
Popeyes on the corner, McDonald’s right across the street
All this talk about guns and the drugs, pretty serious
But look at what they feeding ya’ll, that’s what’s really killing us.
Food deserts, or food swamps, are neighborhoods where it is hard to find affordable or good-quality fresh produce, meats and dairy products. Lacking healthy choices, with diets of sugary and salty foods, there are high rates of diabetes, heart issues, and hypertension.
The co-founders of AFC — a non-profit created in 2011 by Princess Titus, Michelle Horovitz, and Latasha Powell — recognized food as a social justice issue. The AFC organization has been involved in strengthening community relationships with growing, cooking, and eating food together. Its mission is “to use food as a tool to build health, wealth, and social change.”
Before AFC, half of Minneapolis consisted of food deserts, according to USDA data. Many of those deserts were in North Minneapolis, where AFC youth found that there were 38 fast-food restaurants in a two-mile radius.
“AFC believes that the food system is a work in progress, and are fighting for change,” says Powell. “Many of our youth come in with the mindset that agriculture work is like slavery. They don’t want anything to do with it. After spending a summer with us, they start to change the way they are thinking.”
Says one of those youth, Grace Coleman, now a junior leader, “The people here have a way of bringing out the best in others. AFC taught me how to garden, enter data, and pick healthier alternatives. They taught me how to differentiate plants from weeds. I’ve experienced a new outlook on the term eating healthy. That does not mean having the appearance of looking healthy, but having an outlet to fresh, local food in North Minneapolis.”
AFC hosts 10 community garden sites where the produce is collected and sold at the West Broadway Farmers Market and to local restaurants.
“Food is the tool in the center of how we come together to discuss all social justice issues, because we all eat,” says Powell. “We can’t expect the systems to give us anything. It is our personal responsibility to solve our own issues.”
At one recent event, the community explored the question: Do we eat the food because it’s here, or is it here because we eat it?
Appetite for Change Programs
• Community Cooks brings together families, new mothers, youth and partners to grow, cook, eat and learn in community. It collaborates with Fresh Start Garden to integrate a garden curriculum alongside nutrition and social justice issues.
• Fresh Corners offers urban farmers a chance to get fresh produce into restaurants, local stores, and farmer’s markets.
• Northside Fresh partners lead food justice policy and advocacy efforts.
• Kindred Kitchen is a 2,000-square foot commercial space that offers small businesses a way to process locally harvested produce, gives caterers and food truck vendors a place to prepare meals, and offers classes about the food business.
• Breaking Bread Café & Catering offers global comfort food made from scratch, as well as job training for local youth.
If you would like to support the work of Appetite For Change, consider offering a donation on their website, becoming a volunteer, shopping or becoming a vendor at the West Broadway Farmers Market, participating in a Community Cooks service, and eating at Breaking Bread.