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Appetite For Change breaks barriers between inner-city families and healthy foods

 

By Dwight Hobbes
Contributing Writer

 

We certainly hear enough bad about North Minneapolis. How about some good once in a while? Not that there aren’t plenty positive things going on in that part of town, they just don’t make the news like some others.

Consider fairly recent initiative Appetite For Change (AFC). The idea here is to help youngsters help themselves and, while they’re at it, contribute to the community’s wellbeing by involving them in providing an essential resource: food.

Princess Titus, co-founder of Appetite For Change with director Michele Horovitz and Latasha Powell, tells why the initiative was established. “We just want to set the table where people could step into their rightful place of power, using food as the tool to build health, wealth and community change, change led by the people and for the people.

“We engaged the community early on,” Titus explains, “before we started the organization. People were invited in to participate in Community Cooks to cook, eat and talk. The community dialogues were about what people were seeing and what did they want to see as it related to the food that they have access to in their neighborhoods. Power was accessed as people shared stories, worked with and learned from each other.”

(l-r) Latasha Powell,  Princess Anne Nelson (very back) youth volunteer, Jessie McDaniel, youth leader and Princess Titus

(l-r) Latasha Powell, Princess Anne Nelson (very back) youth volunteer, Jessie McDaniel, youth leader and Princess Titus Photo courtesy of Appetite For Change

It’s a young organization. As Horovitz relates, “We formed as an entity in February 2011, but didn’t really get off the ground with regular programming until early 2012. Depends on your metric of success, but I believe we have been successful in building community and financial support in just over two years.”

A look at the website (www.afcmn.org) should clue you in as to why she’s well pleased with the results to date. AFC has taken a comprehensive approach to give the organization a firm foundation rooted first and foremost in connecting to the community. You can tell by, in particular, going to the links, Appetite for Growing, Community Cooks and Fresh Corners.

“I’m very, very pleased with the difference that Appetite For Change is doing”, says Powell. “[We build] relationships by bringing people together around food in a friendly community space. Community organizing and relationship building, especially with the youth, is very important to AFC’s mission and myself because I want the people to build their own power so they can create the change they want to see in themselves, their family and their community.

“Most of the youth [have] never planted a garden or prepared and cooked fresh vegetables before being a part of AFC. Personally I know that inner-city young kids need a positive place to hang out, because it’s easy for them to get involved with something that could change not only their life, but the lives of their families as well.”

The youngsters at AFC are, by the way, not simply shepherded along without a say in things. Titus notes, “Our youth leaders…counted 38 places from Broadway and the freeway to Robbinsdale where you could get food that was not real food —  that’s what they called it. Now we are in the process of opening a restaurant on West Broadway, and here we go again asking the community what would they like to see served there.”

So, you have input from both entities AFC serves: the kids and the community.

Horovitz reflects on why there was a need for something like this. “The need for [it] comes from the voices of Northside residents that have been speaking up about the lack of food options in the community.” She adds, “We cooked with over 250 community members at our first round of Community Cooks workshops, and the message was loud and clear: People want to cook and eat with family at home more often, but certain barriers and challenges exist that make it harder.

“AFC is a way for families to come together around food and build community power to make the changes that people want to see. There is also a need for a community-led organization that responds to what friends, family and co-workers want and say that they need rather than going off of what people from outside of the community think is needed.”

You certainly can’t argue with that.

What difference has Appetite For Change made? “[It] makes a difference by demonstrating the power, assets and strengths that come out of true, authentic collaboration between people in a community like North Minneapolis,” says Horovitz.

“It also shows how, when communities connect with people from outside of the community to share information and power, beautiful relationships develop and people are more capable and motivated to lead and organize community. We have made a difference by bringing attention to what the community wants in the food environment.”

Well, that would be one way to get the people what they want — ask them and then follow through. Which is exactly what Princess Titus, Michelle Horovitz and Latasha Powell, putting their shoulders to the wheel alongside committed youngsters, have done. Powell sums up, “It’s very inspiring to work side by side with the new generation.”

 

Visit Appetite For Change at www.afcmn.org.

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.

To see more stories by Dwight Hobbes stories click HERE

 

 

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