There are many food activists in our community who we should know and recognize, for they’re rich sources of information about local food systems and events. Melissa Danielle is one such person located primarily in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) section of Brooklyn, New York. We originally met when she sent out a tweet requesting lemon balm in exchange for excess mulberry she had foraged few days ago around Prospect Park. Lucky for her my lemon balm bush was growing out of control, and I responded to her request. She was able to make her Lemon Balm Mulberry Sorbet, and I made a Cold Mulberry Soup with Ginger Yogurt. A few weeks later, I would see her again to pick up my first share of vegetables, fruit, and eggs at the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
“We as Eaters need to be conscious of how the foods we eat are sourced–where it’s coming from, who’s growing and raising it and at what cost to the workers and the environment, that everyone involved gets a fair wage and safe working conditions, and the conditions in which the food gets to our plates.” – Melissa Danielle
What was the inspiration for being involved in the Food Movement?
My personal health. I developed seasonal allergies in HS, which morphed into a chronic sinus condition during college. Along with a huge weight gain, I wasn’t feeling well overall. I didn’t want to be medicated, so I started researching diet and health, and began making connections to food, mood, and overall health. After graduating from Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I thought I was going to save the world, or, at least in Bedford-Stuyvesant [Brooklyn], from bad food. But it became painfully clear that I wasn’t going to do either, at least not until I found a way to address the food issues that affect Bedford-Stuyvesant [Bed-Stuy] and similar communities.
On your site, MelissaDanielle.com, there’s a motto, Sustainable Food + Food Crafters + Empowered Eaters = Just Food System. Could you explain it’s meaning?
Food is and has always been participatory and our choices contribute to the social and economic conditions in this world. Some people are fine with just walking up to a counter and choosing a number or choosing a foodstuff because it has better packaging and advertising. And yeah, that stuff might actually taste good and be easier on the wallet now, but we pay for the hidden costs of the food we eat now with our health, our environment, and our economy.
We as Eaters need to be conscious of how the foods we eat are sourced–where it’s coming from, who’s growing and raising it and at what cost to the workers and the environment, that everyone involved gets a fair wage and safe working conditions, and the conditions in which the food gets to our plates. People seem unable or unwilling to deal with the fact that we’ve become guinea pigs for an industrialized food system–toxic chemicals, artificial edible, chemicalized junk food–I’m not interested in participating in any of that.
We have choice–it’s an illusion, and we need to wake up from that. We control very little of what we experience on an outer level. To some degree, I can control what to consume. I can eat foods from farmers, chefs, and small-scale food companies that I know. I know that the extra dollars I pay them goes straight to them and ensures they can feed their families and pay a decent wage to their employees. I know that they are committed to preserving the quality of life for their land, the animals, their community, and me.
How did you become involved with Bed-Stuy’s CSA?
I’ve always wanted to be a part of the Bed-Stuy CSA, now The Bed-Stuy Farm Share, but couldn’t since I always worked on Saturdays, when they had distribution. The CSA farmer, Hector Tejada, has a stand at the farmer’s market I was managing at the time. Lauren Melodia, the CSA founder, would often stop by the market. We became acquainted and I told her I wanted to participate. This is my third year as a core member of the Bed-Stuy Farm Share
What are a few new features to this year’s Bed-Stuy Farm Share for 2011?
Last year we implemented three new pilots: A second pick-up day, coffee, and a Winter share. Those were not without their headaches and glitches, so I can’t say yet if we’ll be adding anything else this year.
“We have choice–it’s an illusion, and we need to wake up from that…. I can eat foods from farmers, chefs, and small-scale food companies that I know.” – Melissa Danielle
What is your future plans to increase more awareness of Brooklyn’s Food Movement?
I’m hoping to write more and get funding for community food education programming. I recently applied for a fellowship to do just that, so we’ll see how it goes.
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