In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that sparked after police killed unarmed Minnesota man George Floyd in May, calls for racial equity have never been louder. Across the country and the globe, people are elevating Black-owned businesses as part of that move toward justice, a move that is particularly palpable in the food sector.
Many Black neighborhoods have been historically void of healthy food. These food deserts make access to fresh, healthy, and organic staples like fruits and vegetables, and whole grains more difficult. It’s also part of the reason why diet-related illness rates are so much higher in these communities than in wealthier, whiter communities.
In the wake of Floyd’s death and the protests that have followed, scores of Black-owned businesses have been in the spotlight. Some are experiencing such a surge in demand they can’t keep up with orders. They’re also serving to play a critical role in starting a dialogue about systemic racism and its role in our food system. (You can read more about racism in the food industry here.) As Black-owned food businesses take off, more will surely follow. And the conversation about food’s role in our communities and the health of our country will help us take the necessary steps to begin to dismantle racism.
Are you looking for Black-owned businesses to support? Check out these nine brands improving our food system and Black communities.
1. Project Pop’s Popcorn
You can never have too much popcorn, especially during the Great Pandemic of 2020. Get your Netflix on with Project Pop’s small-batch organic kettle popcorn. The company uses organic corn and organic virgin coconut oil, making it a truly healthy and indulgent treat.
The company was founded by Chauniqua Major, who couldn’t find a clean enough popcorn on the market for her taste. “After months of travel and hesitation, I headed to my kitchen on a mission to make popcorn that kids from 1 to 92 could enjoy without the guilt factor,” she explains on the company website. “A wild idea turned into a batch of popcorn. A batch of popcorn turned into a passion."
Every batch of her signature Kettle Popcorn is made with clean, organic, non-GMO, vegan ingredients.
2. Healthy On You
The brainchild of certified health coach Samantha “Sam” Binkley, Healthy On You was founded in 2015. Binkley was on the hunt for herb and spice blends that brought the right balance of flavor into her cooking. Conventional supermarket spice blends can often be cluttered with fillers and artificial flavors as well as high levels of sodium—a real threat to people suffering heart health issues.
Binkley took her venture a step further, blending her love for music and her love for healthy food with the Edible Playlist—a spice trio that she says is perfect for the “cooks and music lovers in your life.” Each spice is paired with a song (“Bohemian Rosemary,” anyone?) She also runs a recipe blog to keep your kitchen churning out healthy, flavorful food. Tune in and turn up the beets!
3. Sanaia Applesauce
This is not your kids’ lunchbox applesauce. Entrepreneur Keisha Smith-Jeremie reimagined this childhood staple for the kid in all of us, but with adult palates in mind.
The organic, gluten-free, and non-GMO flavors of Sanaia Applesauce go way beyond cinnamon: hibiscus, lavender pear, and ginger give applesauce a long-overdue makeover.
Growing up in the Bahamas, Smith-Jeremie treasured fruit trees as a child. By adulthood, she could no longer ignore the market gap for applesauce lovers. She developed Sanaia to prove what she says she has long known to be true: fruits are nature’s “most delectable desserts.”
While Sanaia is truly made with adults in mind, adventurous kids will love it, too.
4. Brooklyn Tea
Brooklyn Tea’s name says it all—tea done the Brooklyn way.
Founder Alfonso Wright has been fascinated by tea since childhood, as his Jamaican mother introduced him to English tea culture at a young age. Now, he’s uniting the highest quality organic and Fair Trade tea blends with modern day spins. Milk Oolong and Lemongrass, Cucumber Melon Green, Ginger Turmeric, and Kyoto Cherry Rose Sencha are just some of the blends on hand at Brooklyn Tea.
Order from the online shop for the finest sips, or stop by the tearoom for a cup of calm – and a little ritual to center your soul.
5. Chicago French Press Coffee
Trends may come and go, but coffee never goes out of style. Founder Kris Christian found herself drawn to bold, sweet flavors, but she was overdoing the sugar to cut the bitter taste. An idea was born, and Christian left Wall Street to make it a reality.
Chicago French Press marries the finest quality organic coffee with nuts, dried, fruit, and other flavors. It’s also the go-to resource for brewing methods (they’re partial to French pressing). This is not flavored instant coffee. This is coffee 2.0.
Healthier and focused on the intricacies of flavor balance, Chicago French Press is also on a mission to support those in need. A portion of all sales go to groups including The Simple Good, The Take Back, Heart of Man, and Alzheimer’s Association.
6. Sol Cacao
Chocolate is so much more than just a treat. It actually triggers chemicals in the brain that make us happier – and we could all use a good dose of that right now, couldn’t we?
Bronx-based brothers Daniel, Dominic, and Nicholas Maloney found themselves on a mission to recreate the quality chocolate they grew up on in Trinidad and Tobago, and thus they founded Sol Cacao and its dairy-free organic chocolate bars of the highest quality.
Sol Cacao offers three chocolate bars that are made only from two simple ingredients: cacao beans and raw cane sugar. Everything is sustainably and organically grown, sourced ethically from the world’s top cacao growing regions including Ecuador, Peru, and Madagascar.
Like wine grapes, cacao varieties bring different flavors and textures. Madagascar may bring more berry and cherry notes, for example, while Peru reminisces of jammy apricots and raisins. Try them all for yourself and decide which one you like best!
7. Power Bites
Don’t you just love happy accidents? Chef and entrepreneur Sharif Rasheed’s Power Bites happened while trying to make a soft granola bar for his teething son. The rest, as they say, is a revolutionary new way of snacking, or as Rasheed calls it, “snacktivism.”
“We believe that snack time should fuel you nutritionally so you can change the world,” he notes on the website. There’s a lot of power packed into these little organic bites – both nutritionally and with regards to Rasheed’s passion for social justice. A portion of proceeds from every sale goes to support a public school teacher.
8. Hayground Organic Gardening
A staple figure in Los Angeles, gardener Jimmy Williams has been building elaborate gardens for Hollywood’s A-listers for decades. You can find him and his son Logan at the Santa Monica and Hollywood Farmers Markets with an array of starter plants like organic heirloom tomatoes, herbs, and flowers. The Williams’ recently recounted their experiences with racism in the southland to the LA Times.
“We really need to reform the way Black history is taught in conjunction with American history,” Logan, 34, said. “Maybe if we explained the contributions a little better, the different races would have more respect for each other. I remember my mom and dad bought me books about black history because they knew it was not being taught to me in school.”
Jimmy, 79, says racism isn’t affecting rich, white people, like many of his clients. “They just turn their backs and wait until it goes away,” he said. “Those white people have to get involved in the change; they’re the ones who have to make the change.”
9. Compton Vegan
What started as a personal journey through a painful divorce has turned into one of the most iconic vegan takeaway options in Los Angeles. Lemel Durrah grew up on the fast food the permeated his hometown in the South LA neighborhood of Compton. But he ate a lot of traditional soul food, too—mac ‘n’ cheese, cornbread, collards, fried shrimp and chicken. A 21-day fast changed all that, and Compton Vegan was born. While his menu isn’t 100 percent organic, Durrah serves non-GMO options, like Violife cheese, which also offers an organic range.
Durrah is now also growing many of his own ingredients at his former middle school’s community garden plot, with minimal chemicals. But it’s the fruit-and-vegetable-rich diet that comes with incalculable benefits, whether or organic or not, according to Durrah.
"As opposed to surviving off of 8, 9, 10 different pills, I can just eat 8, 9, 10 different fruits and vegetables.”
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