‘Black the wild’ food: A new way of eating in the US

Written by Meredith Bruckner, CNN Black in its origin, Black is the only Indigenous food on the menu at Toronto’s Chef & Chef. Just 75 stores mean only a small slice of urban Toronto’s…

'Black the wild' food: A new way of eating in the US

Written by Meredith Bruckner, CNN

Black in its origin, Black is the only Indigenous food on the menu at Toronto’s Chef & Chef. Just 75 stores mean only a small slice of urban Toronto’s population has ever tasted it.

But a plan to create Black food sovereignty may change that.

“I had a basic understanding of it, but I didn’t know it was an actual program,” co-owner Donna Mixon said. “There were discussions about it, there were people saying that they wanted to do it. But it wasn’t like the real deal.”

The pilot program that Mixon is referring to is Black Truffle Deli , a grassroots effort that aims to establish five Black-owned grocers in low-income and urban communities.

The initiative started when agronomist Ryan Adams met Black Truffle Deli organizers. Adams noticed the problems Black Truffle Deli had struggling to get supplies of Black food, so he started working with some of the people involved.

In a few months, the organization had bought an earthenware pottery workshop and signed up eight farmers. Now, their members grow Black foods, and many produce products for Black Truffle Deli, ranging from Black sugar to Black cheese to Black flour.

“What we’re now trying to see is how we can see how we can make this work sustainably,” said Evelyn Swan, executive director of the Black Truffle Deli. “Not in a case where we’re going to throw our Black food in a box and turn a quick profit. We want to do this in a way that actually enhances and builds a local food system here.”

In a bid to bring Black food to all areas of the city, Black Truffle Deli is launching a fundraising campaign this month to expand to five more locations. Their goal is to create a healthier, more local food system that breaks down barriers to people who may not be able to afford purchasing Black foods.

“We want people to have access to food that looks like them, tastes like them, and reminds them of how their ancestors were doing things 50 years ago,” says Swan.

Swan adds that to get Black food into traditional food deserts, they must acquire Black food products that aren’t produced in the North, or are made in affluent parts of the city.

“Black food is consumed pretty heavily across our Great Lakes,” she said. “But there’s a bunch of varieties of black coffee that are not produced here. And there’s some of our country’s black foods that are coming into North America from the Far East.”

“Many of the foods we consume aren’t so easily transported,” says Jessica Jones, co-owner of Unscripted Black Boy, a black-owned food truck that specializes in salad. “So we’re working to try to figure out what it is about our foods that makes it more difficult to bring them in, and how we can leverage technologies and new business models to overcome that.”

While Black food is increasingly popular, the food movement hasn’t been focused on developing Black food systems, Swan says.

“The Native foods movement was a huge statement that we don’t care what our friends are doing. We don’t care if they do it in Chicago or in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we’re going to look at it the same way.”

As people are learning about Black foods, Mixon hopes they can continue to incorporate them into their cooking in ways that enhance their nutritional health.

“We’re doing our best with the produce and the products that we have,” says Mixon. “We hope that this movement makes it so that everyone can have the black food that they want and the food that their ancestors had.”

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