Photo credit: Isha Gaines

Black women, food and power: 5 women evangelizing food entrepreneurship

Food is a critical part of daily life. As gentrification begins to push longtime residents out, food deserts become a way of displacing people. A woman in New York seeks to ensure healthy food generates through the community.

Food Justice in the BX


Tanya Fields, BLK ProjeK

In addition, Bronx food justice activist and urban farmer Tanya Fields founded the BLK ProjeK in 2009 to address food justice and economic development by harnessing the local, good food movement and creating small business and career opportunities for underserved women and youth of color.

The BLK ProjeK works in conjunction with Libertad Urban Farm project and Farm Stand Box, two business models created by Fields. Libertad is an urban farm that relies heavily on community volunteers and interns to cultivate organically-grown whole food.

Produce from Libertad is combined with foods (eggs, honey, meat) grown by New York State farmers for inclusion in the Farm Stand Box, an affordable box of legumes, produce, and some vegan options that can be purchased with SNAP/EBT dollars. She also works with mothers and children in cooking and eating healthier meals.

Norfolk Food Activist

Felicia Amos, owner of Just Pic’d Juices.

For Felicia Amos, juicing saved her grandmother’s life. Stubborn and resistant to change, Amos’ grandmother was facing heart surgery because of heart disease. Amos researched holistic methods of healing and decided to take a chance on juicing. Her grandmother complied though leery of having to give up some of the fatty, salty, and sugary foods she grown accustomed to eating for decades. That was several years ago. Her grandmother continues to juice organic vegetables and fruit.

Amos is the owner of a successful juicing business in the heart of one Norfolk, Virginia’s food deserts. Just Pic’d Juices sits in a strip mall not far from a dozen or so fast food restaurants, corner stores selling junk foods, cigarettes, and liquor, and where heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are ‘normal’ medical conditions.

Yet, in less than three years, Amos’ business has become the go-to place for neighborhood regulars seeking to improve the quality of their lives by improving their health. One of the secrets to her success has been changing the way whole foods and healthy food preparation is discussed in poor communities. Amos teaches that good health takes commitment and education that removes the elitism often associated with practices such as juicing. The late Dick Gregory was a fan of her activism and healthy-living advocacy.

Every last one of these women is removed from the glitz of reality TV food stardom and celebrity chefs. Their focus on building and maintaining sustainable communities with food entrepreneurship is furthering the work of black women that pre-dates the end of slavery in this country.

They follow in the steps of Rose Nicaud, an enslaved woman who bought her own freedom by selling coffee in New Orleans. They feed movements like Georgia Gilmore who sold pastries and dinners from her makeshift home kitchen restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama. And they create cottage industries like the Gordonsville waiter-carriers who sold fried chicken dinners to whites on trains in Virginia.

Food continues to be the answer to a number of woes. Primarily black and poor neighborhoods in food deserts or areas with grocers selling expensive pesticide-laden produce are experiencing revivals in practices that sustained black women and their families years ago.

Robin Caldwell is a food publicist who has a passion for black women chefs and the plate economy.

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