Tag Archives: Food Justice

Making Changes: Block by Block

New Grantee: The BLK ProjeK

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Although the Hunts Point Cooperative Market in the South Bronx is one of the largest food distribution centers in the world, many of its neighbors are without access to quality, healthy food. The median annual income in the South Bronx is $19,113, and good groceries are sparse.

The BLK ProjeK was born out of the frustrations of one such inhabitant: Tanya Fields. Tanya was a poor, single mother who moved to the South Bronx and found her asthmatic child struggling with the pollution generated by the hundreds of thousands of semis that deliver food to Hunts Point every year.

The struggles of her son led Tanya to think increasingly more about environmental justice. She began drawing connections between the unhealthy urban environments in which poor people lived, and the unhealthy food available to them. She also, naturally, began drawing connections between the unhealthy food available to poor urban communities, and the women who serve that food to their families. Tanya realized that poverty has a feminine face.

In order to tackle the insufficient access to healthy food in the South Bronx, Tanya consequently turned to mothers. She starting small, facilitating “Mommy & Me” classes in order to educate mothers about nutrition. In 2009, her efforts expanded beyond the classroom to the garden, and the BLK ProjeK was born.

The women of BLK ProjeK were guerilla gardeners from the outset. They broke into abandoned lots in the South Bronx and planted vegetables. They created a groundswell, compelling more than 200 residents to petition and telephone the Housing Preservation and Development of NYC, demanding that the city allow the BLK ProjeK to turn one of those lots into an urban farm. Eventually their demands were heard, and that lot became the Libertad Urban Farm. In order to deliver produce from the Libertad Urban Farm to their community, the women of the BLK ProjeK then renovated an old school bus, turning it into a beautiful mobile market running exclusively on used vegetable oil.

But Tanya and the BLK ProjeK have their sights set higher still. They want the South Bronx to be able to feed itself. They want to change the economic and political landscape of the community by creating local jobs and promoting municipal participation. And women remain the catalyst in all this. The BLK ProjeK is driven by its firm belief in the “girl effect” – the notion that investing in women and women-led efforts is the most effective way to promote social change. Women plant the seeds of physical and fiscal health in every community.

In order to support the BLK ProjeK, the Spark grant will:

  • Provide funds for the growth and sale of produce from the Libertad Urban Farm
  • Provide stipends for volunteer farmers
  • Promote community outreach in order to encourage participation in the Libertad Urban Farm, as well as the farm’s CSA

And source the following Pro Bono needs:

  • Web Design

If you would like to support Spark’s fundraising efforts for The BLK ProjeK, you can make a donation on Spark’s website. If you are interested in providing pro bono services for them, please email programs@sparksf.org.

We are thrilled to support this wonderful organization. Visit BLK ProjeK’s website to learn more.

Nerd Crush: Saru Jayaraman

Behind The Kitchen Door

Post Authored By: Spark Fellow, Calli Rothberg

Being a foodie has its costs. Pork belly may entice you in, but there is a sordid underbelly in the U.S. restaurant industry. Human rights advocate and food justice powerhouse, Saru Jayaraman, is hell bent on changing restaurant employment and labor issues in America. Fighting brutally for the rights of underpaid and harshly treated workers, Jayaraman is a force to be reckoned with. She leads in educating the public on the importance of the treatment of those serving the food rather than the obsession with the grass-fed meat and organic vegetables being served.

Jayaraman’s passion for eradicating social injustices sparked during her childhood as a first generation American. In 1992 she co-founded a national young women’s organization, Women and Youth Supporting Each Other (WYSE). Later her work with post 9/11 displaced World Trade Center workers became the foundation of her latest project, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United). She has been making significant strides towards leading in the food justice movement ever since.

Jayaraman co-founded ROC-United in 2008 striving to improve the wages and working conditions of restaurant employees. One in 10 Americans work in the restaurant industry and ROC-United has led and won 13 major campaigns against high-profile restaurant companies. Seven million dollars was obtained in tips, wages, and significant policy changes for workers as Jayaraman’s triumphs continue to go off like fireworks. Incentivizing restaurant owners to create policy change and workers to speak up against improper conditions continues to motivate ROC-United.

Now Jayaraman wants to talk to you. In her acclaimed new book, Behind the Kitchen Door, Jayaraman uncovers the truth about eating out. Highlighting stories where workers with unpaid sick days equal H1N1 in our food. Her interview on Bill Maher caused an intriguing ruckus when giving a preview of the facts put forth in Behind the Kitchen Door. For the past 22 years minimum wage for tipped workers has been stuck at $2.13 per hour and women with children make up 70% of those earning such a trivial amount. These women serve hundreds of people a day, yet they are poverty stricken, unable to serve their own children at home. It’s statistics like these that give Jayaraman the drive and passion to make a change in this world we all live, eat, and breathe in.

SparkSF is thrilled to welcome Saru Jayaraman at our Investment Committee on June 26. Join us as we look behind the kitchen door and mobilize to create a just restaurant industry. Space is limited. Click the link below to purchase tickets. See you there!

http://sparksfkitchendoor.eventbrite.com/