January 17, 2021

Design Feast’s Makers Series—109th Interview: In Minnesota, Real-Food Advocacy and Action Group Appetite For Change Lead Their Local Community in a Fresh and Sustainable Way

It was through the National Public Radio story “A Garden Is The Frontline In The Fight Against Racial Inequality And Disease” that I learned about Appetite For Change, a group dedicated to growing and distributing naturally grown food—“Real Food” as they precisely put it—to the people in North Minneapolis. Here, co-founder, Princess Haley, gives an in-depth account of her compassionate organization—its local-yet-global mission, mechanics, motivations and more.

1. Well-stated! “Food is the tool that creates health, wealth and social change.” How does food realize both good self and a good society?

Food being a very important part of everyone’s culture, it sets the stage in the garden, at the cutting board or the kitchen table for people to see similarities. Which is needed in a society that has been training us to step into the world in a single file line based on the zip code we live in, the box we check to communicate our race, as well as our socio-economic status to separate us. We all deserve good food, good water, good soil, good times to spend with others.

2. Appetite for Change’s work reinforces the observation that everyone is a designer. How is design a part of AFC?

As a community-led organization, we design programs that address the needs of our community. For example, the COVID pandemic meant that we could not run our flagship program, Community Cooks. Community Cooks brings people together into our Café space to make a meal together, to eat that meal together, and connect. However, we knew that some people relied on the meal to supplement their food costs, and that they still needed the connection that is inherent in eating a meal together. Compounded with the effects of George Floyd’s murder (which impacted food access in North Minneapolis), we needed to find a way to get real food to real people. We had to rethink the design of Community Cooks, and thus, Community Cooks Meal Boxes was born, and was such a success, it will continue into 2021.

3. When it comes to pouring ideas and energy into fixing access to real food, along with providing relief of food anxiety and insecurity everywhere, how can the Biden-Harris administration really help? What are top-of-mind food-related areas, even obstacles, they must resolve? 

There are immediate measures that need to be taken to solve problems that have ballooned during the COVID-19 pandemic, like: 

  • Ensuring that food subsidy programs (SNAP, WIC, etc) continue and/or expand to support families who need it. Extending those benefits to people who are facing new-to-them challenges stemming from the pandemic, like unemployment, illness/health issues, homelessness. 
  • Support and approve an extension of CARES Act funding past March 2021, so that state and local governments can address the needs of their communities. 

In the long-term:

  • Increasing the standards for the foods served through the National School Lunch Program to provide more nutritious foods for children.
  • Provide funding for communities to improve food access. Food is accessible when it is affordable, and community members can readily grow or raise it; find it; obtain it; transport it; prepare it and eat it.
  • Find ways to support small farmers and farmers markets to increase the economic viability of these crucial players in the food system. This could be real with laws that encourage local dollars to stay in the community (e.g., buy local); provide financial support for establishing or strengthening local businesses/trade/producers (e.g., facilitate or create access to a funding streams—grants, loans; provides a tax break or other economic incentive); support livable wage jobs within the community; support humane working conditions for food workers; create pathways for economic prosperity (e.g. training programs; new/small business support) and promotes community wealth.

4. Good health is …

Having access and knowledge of the relationship between your internal and external environment. Good health is being able to understand the working of human existence, of having something in your body that needs to be healed, and that is a process. It is also being able to pay attention to yourself, the inside of you and knowing how your body works, what your body likes to consume. It is also about seeing what you need.

5. How did you three (Princess Haley, Michelle Horovitz, LaTasha Powell) find each other and join together to make Appetite For Change?

In January 2012, three women, mothers, and warriors sat awkwardly around the large wooden dining room table at 2009 James Avenue North … These three women saw the assets in North Minneapolis—namely its people. They cooked, ate and talked together, and this is when the magic happened. They found out that some people call a saucepan a skillet, and that people are more open to eat leftovers if you call them TV dinners. Dreams got blended with fears, and they whisked away the taste of difference. The mothers of AFC found similarity and connection through their hopes, wins, losses, and by coming together to prepare and share food with each other. The whole experience was like preparing the land to plant an unknown seed and having the courage to try its fruits.

AFC’s founders came together around their shared vision for North Minneapolis, but what they’ve created has far surpassed what any one of them would have thought possible those years ago. These three women have created unbreakable bonds, and have formed a sisterhood through food, but naturally like sisters do, they all still test each others’ nerves on occasion, but they respect the sweat.

6. If someone approached you with: “I want to start a nonprofit to help make a movement for a good cause”—what would you advise?

I would advise them to

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