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Food for the African American Heritage Natural Lifestyle

by Patricia Butler, Board Member

Greetings from your Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors! In the past month, your Board has been having fun. Yes, I said that, having fun! We have been practicing our policy monitoring skills as a group, getting ready for the upcoming Board elections and learning about generative governance.

As I write this, our January Board meeting was just two days ago, and I still feel invigorated from the camaraderie and good discussion. Now would be a wonderful time to consider running for your Board of Directors; the application materials will be ready by March 1st!

We have spoken about generative governance in the past. This month Ann Hoyt introduced the topic to us in more detail using The Practitioner’s Guide to Governance as Leadership. The goal of this learning is to make sense of the world around us so that we are better positioned as a strategic governing body. 

To round out our Board article this month, Pat Butler has written a piece especially for Black History Month. Pat is one of your Board members, a pillar in the Northside community, and a strong advocate for the Co-op. -Jeannine Bindl, Board President

Embracing the “Natural hair” look among African Americans has become a movement. No more relaxers because of fear that it causes fibroid tumors. Is this true? I have found no studies that cleanly show a relationship between relaxers and fibroid tumors. But the natural hair look among African Americans has taken root and is now a movement that has grown quietly from its deep historical roots which YouTube star and Instagram influencer millennials have spread through social media. I think the main idea behind the natural hair look for African American women is proudly embracing their African heritage. To complete the natural look, African Americans are striving for healthy bodies through better food selections. This article is not about African American natural hairstyles, but instead, how local co-ops support staple food sources to prepare healthy soul food dishes. 

Because most everyone is so health conscious nowadays, cooking and eating healthy soul food has become more than just a fad. Many African Americans have abandoned the traditional method of preparing cultural soul food dishes such as candied yams, black-eyed peas, fried chicken, potato salad, cornbread, hot-water cornbread, grits, collard and mustard greens, pound cake, head cheese, hushpuppies, banana pudding, ham hocks, sweet potatoes, hog maw, okra, oxtails, pigs’ feet, peach cobbler, and of course, neck bones. This revolutionary change has come about due to health concerns associated with the way our parents and grandparents used to prepare their foods and the growing health concerns among African Americans. Gone are the days of cooking with lard or hydrogenated vegetable oils and seasoning vegetables and beans with fattening pork product. Unlike the high-calorie fried chicken, macaroni and cheese and greens common to many “soul food” tables, the traditional foods of people of African heritage are actually very healthy. What we choose to eat, how we prepare it, serve it, and even how we eat our foods are all elements greatly affected by our own distinct cultural soul food legacies.

If you are an avid eater of soul food like me, I know what you're thinking: is it possible to eat soul food that is healthy? A better question: is it possible to transform classic soul food favorites into modernized healthy dishes to suit the healthier lifestyle. 

The answer is yes; with a little knowledge and commitment, you can prepare healthy soul foods that are flavorful and deliciously satisfying. If this seems like a lot to give up all at once, ease your way into this endeavor one step at a time. The end result is that you will soon see it doesn't take much to make major improvements toward eating healthy

As African Americans prepare for Black History month, many churches and family celebration tables will be graced with soul foods. These meals can be prepared in a health-conscious manner. Willy Street Co-op offers a huge, local, organic produce section, which gives the African American community access to desired organic and natural food selections to prepare healthy yet delicious dishes. African Americans who are looking for food to support a healthier soul food palette, may need to look no further than Willy Street Co-op to find fresh produce to prepare meals for satisfying festive meals. The many possibilities for cooking healthier soul foods are limited only by your imagination.