What's happening in Brooklyn with food justice and fun?
By Jennifer Johns, Artist in Residence at Food First
Last week I performed and hosted the first annual Chop It Up event presented by Wholesome Wave, a Connecticut based food justice organization that works to support farmers markets in low income communities across the United States. IT WAS AWESOME!!! Lots of amazing food and talent. This event attracted the usual and not so usual food justice folks to eat, dance and laugh all in the name of healthier communities. I had a BLAST!
The event was hosted in the historic BAM cafe, a staple in the Brooklyn arts community and featured performances by poets and chefs alike. Wholesome Wave Executive Director and Chef, Michel Nischan, Evan Hanczor, and Joe “JJ” Johnson partnered with poets Stephen Colman, Mahogany Browne and Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai for a poetry/food slam not soon to be forgotten. The experience got better as the night went on when when Goapele took the stage! She looked and sounded AMAZING! There was so much Bay Area flavor in the room I felt right at home!
Chop It Up though phenomenal on its own, was preceded by a week of food and fun throughout the Brooklyn borough for what Wholesome Wave called "New York City Gets Fresh Week". At the top of the week, Sunday August 19th in partnership with Let's Move, an initiative created by First Lady, Michelle Obama we took a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge for Get Fit NYC, well... I didn't- but I did sing at the end. That's exercise right? Michel Nishan spoke about the power to shift communities through food. Lockie Anderson, Founder and CEO of Let's Move Brooklyn and Catalyst Cares spoke about exercise and community engagement. I sang and spoke about the power art and food have to bring communities together and DJ Trauma made us dance! When you can party on a Sunday morning with an organization like Wholesome Wave you know you are in for a fantastic week!
The fun continued at restaurants and bars all over Brooklyn! Wholesome Waves worked with local restauranteurs to produce Get Fresh menus featuring local and organic items. The restaurants then graciously donated a portion of the sales to the Wholesome Wave campaign. I recall one late night bar hoping for local treats in Brooklyn's Fort Greene district with Development Director AJahi. From Mo's to No 7 to Brooklyn Moon and back, we sang karaoke and drank basil vodka mojitos and ate tomato salads and quesadillas. All local and organic! All amazing!
The Wholesome Wave Team did a great job of making the ideas of food justice accessible and palatable for the community by bringing it right to their front door! I pray that more organizations follow their lead and begin to make our work more culturally relevant. Last week reminded me of what a small group of people can do to raise awareness and have fun at the same time! I can't wait until next year to do it all again!