“It’s not just enough to want people to get free things, we also want people to get high-quality things and to be inspired to look at food slightly differently,” said Moyo Tornai, one of the co-founders of the Black Star Food Collective.
Formally known as Ujamaa Food Circle and a sister organization to the Black Star Farmers, the Black Star Food Collective is led and founded by Black organizers who believe in creating food systems that allow Black and Indigenous peoples to have ownership and make decisions about their food.
In just over a year since the collective was founded, the group has made hot meals from rescued food, started the development of a food buying club, delivered free food boxes to families, and has begun working to strengthen the connection between Black farmers and communities.
A larger vision
Empowering communities to design their own solutions to food insecurity is at the heart of Black Star Famers Collective’s work. According to Marcus Henderson, one of the co-founders, their vision is to support communities in understanding and building food system solutions that are responsive and representative of their unique needs.
This approach could include supporting the community in building a food buying club, developing a co-op, or any other type of food system.
“Whatever they want to do, we’re going to allow that community to do that and then hopefully we can empower them, and they own it, and we can go ahead and move on, and we can go help a community that wants to do something similar,” said Henderson.
This unique approach to building food sovereignty in Seattle, allows for community members to have a better understanding of the different food systems around them and how they can be more involved in the food system and not rely on grocery stores to get food. It also focuses on building quality relationships with community members by working with one community at a time.
The beginning of the food buying club
Black Star Food Collective’s work in the New Holly community of South Seattle exemplifies this approach of helping communities design their own food system solutions. The collective was in touch with Phillippia Goldsmith, who is a community builder at the Seattle Housing Authority, and who connected the group to New Holly community members.
Black Star Food Collective started working with the New Holly community by providing and delivering free monthly organic whole foods, dried bulk goods, and culturally relevant goods from local food vendors to community members with the intentions of creating food buying clubs.
Although the collective was able to provide the food boxes for free, the goal was to bring people together around the idea of starting their own food buying club to get affordable fresh produce and goods.
Through this work, Black Star Food Collective successfully introduced community members to locally grown fresh organic produce and fresh organic local foods. The focus now is to support the New Holly community members in developing the Food Buying Club without having to rely on outside funding sources.
“We’re revamping the program with the focus on really trying to empower the people to be able to support this program and not purely through grants,” said Henderson.
As the Black Star Food Collective engages New Holly community members in educating them about getting involved in our local food systems, they are working with community members to identify what culturally relevant foods would most benefit them.
The collective will then connect them with culturally relevant local food producers, for example their sister organization Black Star Farmers, and ensure that relationships are built, and community members needs are being addressed.
Although the New Holly community is in proximity to a major chain grocery store, the food buying club gives community members the opportunity to save money, support local farmers by purchasing produce at wholesale prices, and most importantly learn about where their food is coming from.
Community members rely less on grocery stores, and it allows community members to play a stronger role in our food system, with access to fresh culturally relevant foods that are reasonably priced.
When asked what people can do to support the Black Star Food Collective: “At this time our biggest ask is financial support – to support not only our programs but also our all-Black team of dedicated individuals facilitating the programs,” said Carmen Mitchell, the Executive Director of the Black Star Food Collective.
To learn more about the Black Star Food Collective, visit blackstarfoodcollective.org.