19 May Serving up a Dose of Food Justice with “Service to Soul”
“Service to Soul” is a new food justice initiative at Booker T. Washington Community Service Center (BTWCSC) that brings nourishing, prepared meals and organic produce boxes to Black/African American neighborhoods every week. Operating in collaboration with Calvary Hill Church in Bayview Hunters Point and Food Connect (a nonprofit that focuses on bridging the gap between surplus food and hunger), the Service to Soul program sources locally grown vegetables from Black farmers, and works with Black chefs to prepare nourishing meals for families in the community.
Farmers from EARTHseed Farm and Wildlove, both Black owned and Black led farms in Northern California, provide the fresh vegetables for the program. EARTHseed Farm that operates in Sonoma County and is rooted in Afro Indigenous permaculture principles, is built on the long legacy of earth wisdom traditions from people of African descent.
Pia Harris from Nia Soul is one of three chefs for the program. She cooks authentic and delicious soul food options with hints of African, Caribbean, and Southern influences.
Currently, 350 families and individuals are signed up to receive hot, fresh meals every Friday evening, a key time for food insecurity. We also have 66 neighborhood families signed up and receiving fresh local organic 8 lbs. produce boxes every Tuesday. We are currently at 800 meals being delivered a week, with the goal to scale to 1,000 to 1,200 a week.
Booker T. recently expanded its produce offerings with a ‘Spring Pantry’ in the Center lobby on Fridays from 3:30 to 6pm. Working with community partner, Farming Hope, the market features free fresh, local and seasonal produce and dairy and grocery essentials; the pantry is staffed by our hardworking Senior Victor Club volunteers. The pantry allows families and on-site residents to easily shop for what they need before a busy weekend. The pantry is already a big hit, featuring fan favorites and culturally appropriate foods, like fresh corn, mandarins, red peppers, bok choy, collard greens, fresh spinach, oat milk, masa, eggs and beans.
This program is particularly important for our Executive Director, Shakirah Simley as she has been a passionate advocate for food justice and equity, throughout her career.
“There are not many places on the West side of the city to get culturally appropriate, thoughtful, delicious food with an emphasis on seasonality. There isn’t a lot of dignity attached to the existing and current meal programs in San Francisco, so we knew we had to change that with Service to Soul,” says Simley.
Since reopening the Center in 2018, we have operated a weekly food pantry, delivered meals to homebound seniors and people with disabilities, and served two daily meals (i.e., breakfast and lunch) snacks to children, youth, and their families in our after-school and summer programs. In a typical year, we prepare, distribute, and serve more than 70,500 meals!
We continue to serve up smiles at Booker T., with our incredible Western Addition/Fillmore community every Wednesday 10-12pm, Thursday 12-1pm and Friday from 1-3pm!