There are many, many assumptions about Black people and food in the United States and beyond, many of which we directly counter as Food for Black Thought. We challenge these assumptions and follow these guiding principles in pursuit of more just food work – and more just foundations for that work. 5 principles guide how we facilitate, consult, and build:
1 } Collaboration
We cooperate and build with communities who seek to identify, celebrate, and cultivate more collaborative, resilient, and socially-just food systems where they live. We work with allies who are willing to work with rather than on communities, and who have demonstrated that commitment in their work.
2} Community Knowledge
Black and other historically resilient communities maintain important food knowledge and cooperative food practices for resilience. These are historical, community practices. Black food knowledge and practices tend to be assumed, stigmatized, and overlooked – despite their rich history. We emphasize that history, share back, and continue to learn from Black youth and elders.
3} Beyond Food Deserts
We believe cultural practices and foodways can and do provide food access. Retailers are not the only places where people access, experience, or share in food. However, common “food desert” language and studies tend to focus on retail access alone. This language also focuses on acting on communities, rather than with. This language further assumes that communities can not address (and do not address) their own food issues. In order to better understand and document community food experiences, we honor how food is grown, shared, bought, sold, and prepared.
4} Holistic Understandings of Health
Though we understand food plays a role in health, health is not just about what people are eating – but also about conditions people are living. We emphasize a systemic conversation about health, one that considers mind/body/spirit wellness in historical context; structural issues such as race/racism, environmental injustice, gentrification; and the impact of chronic stress and trauma on community wellbeing. From this perspective, we challenge common approaches to health regarding “obesity” and “healthy” food.
5} Transformative Economies
We believe transformative economic approaches are essential for more sustainable and socially-just food systems to take root. We affirm that Black food experiences, which have a long history of practicing transformative economics (barter, cooperatives, collectives, nourishing each other through social networks and cultural institutions) are 1) a way to address food issues in Black communities today, and 2) a framework for broader collaborative, resilient, and socially-just food systems.