cherry bombe: food fight!

what do you do when the world is going to hell in a hand basket? i like books and food and events, so it’s awesome when some of these things intersect as they did tonight. cherry bombe magazine threw an event called “food fight” (which may be a series of events; they say they will continue with more in the future), so i hied it on over to gowanus to listen to people talk about how food and social justice come together.


the women + man featured:

they were introduced and moderated by kerry diamond, editorial director of cherry bombe magazine.

(what's with the photo of the east river? don't i usually accompany these posts with a photo from the event? yes, i do, but all my photos from tonight turned out to be total shit, so here's a photo of water because i always go to water for comfort. hey, i grew up in california; it's a natural instinct.)

kerry diamond:  it's no longer enough to be a nice person who believes in the right things. and i think we've all been that nice person who believes in the right things.


  • anna lipin:
    • women represent about 20% of government positions.
    • we are citizens of a democratic republic. we are not powerless. i think it's worth remembering that.
    • no matter what community you need, there are people with resources who can help you enact your own political voice.
  • kat kinsman:
    • so, what you're feeling — it's real, and it's terrifying. there's this national gas lighting going on, and people are saying it's going to be okay, and it's not. it's not going to be okay so long as it's not okay for all of us.
    • you have to be prepared to ask people if they're okay, and you have to be prepared to hear them say no.


  • KD:  it just takes one person with one idea to accomplish great things.
  • KD:  [the morning after the election,] i felt like the world had changed in ways that i could barely express. the america i thought i knew was no longer the america i thought i knew. and i thought of mimi. she has gone through so many things [the great depression on], and, still, you are an amazing person who has gone through these things. when you lived through all these things, what did you think, and how did the world go on?
    • mimi sheraton:  i was born in 1926, so i remember the depression.  i remember what happened through [the century], and i'm still standing — or, i'm sitting — so i want to assure you that you will be, too.
    • MS:  i think one of the most dangerous things now as a writer, from hearing that tonight [trump] spoke to the press and gave them hell and threw them all out — the first thing i can say is no self-censorship.
    • MS:  [she speaks about how she's met trump before.]  he's a germaphobe. i was told not to shake his hand because he doesn't like that, so i wondered if he wore gloves when he groped.
    • MS:  i think we have to be watchful and protest every step of the way.
  • KD:  ovenly is not just a bakery. it's an organization for social good. [could you speak more to this?]
    • agatha kulaga:  [both she and her partner have experience in social work/non-profit work.] we had a lot of experience in the past doing a lot of work for non-profits. i think that, even without knowing it, when we started ovenly, we were baking because we wanted to start a baking business, but, when we opened up our first retail business, one of our first customers was a social worker who stopped by to ask if we might be introduced in working with young men who had just been released from the justice system. we never thought twice about it but said yes. we didn't seek it out; we started to employ young men who had gone through [his organization's*] job placement service; and that's how we just developed this relationship. and we started speaking to the ansob center for refugees — and it just turned into this really beautiful way of having open hiring practices and having this great job pool.
    • AK:  we started hiring folks not based on résumés. we basically said, "you've got to want to work hard. we want people who are committed and have a positive attitude and good energy."
    • AK:  at this point, 40% of our employees are former refugees or people who have been incarcerated.
    • AK:  as we grow, we keep in mind that the only way we can scale our business is if we do it in an ethical way. it's important for us to make sure we're offering the best in everything that we do.
      • [she acknowledges that, when ovenly started out, they couldn't do everything or provide everything they'd want to their employees, but that doesn't mean they couldn't stick to their ethics/values.]
    • AK:  there's money out there; there are resources out there — if you want to do better, there are ways to do it.
    • AK:  you really need to start small, and that's where i think change really starts to grow, and you can really have an impact.
    • AK:  if people know you're trying to be a responsible business owner, people are more likely to give you business.
  • KD:  wen-jay's a one-woman operation. [she had just lost her job and set out to create the job she wanted to do.]
    • wen-jay ying:  i wanted to find a more convenient or more fun way for people to get their local produce. this was five years ago when food businesses weren't really a thing, so i figured i'd start my own food business. i started going to farmers' markets, and, within two months, i had five CSA markets.
    • WJY:  i think, when you're in tune with your neighbors, you are the ones to make the biggest differences in your neighborhoods. if we take a second of the day to be mindful of what's in front of us, we can change.
  • KD:  roy, if you could tell us more about drive change and snowday?
    • roy waterman:  i'm here because our co-founder was unable to be here. i'm one of the founding members of drive change, and, basically, this business was birthed because there was this problem of communities of color being over-policed — we see a lot of abuse; we see a lot of police brutality. and i was a chef and catering all over manhattan when i met jordan.
    • RW:  we use the mobile industry to train formerly incarcerated people.
    • RW:  we've been known [in our food truck, snowday] to use maple in almost everything, so canadians had it right all along.
    • RW:  we source locally. we believe there's a very, very fine line between food justice and social justice.
    • RW:  [our program is] a course of one year. it's a full-time commitment. we pay them a livable wage. they're on the food truck two days a week, in a kitchen two days a week, and spend one day learning food development. we don't change people — i don't believe people change people; i believe people change systems. i don't think the justice system is broken; it's doing exactly what it was intended to do, which was oppress people.
    • RW:  it costs $210,000 a year to support one inmate for one year on riker's island.
    • RW:  our mayor continues to funnel unlimited resources into riker's island. there are an estimated 10,000 officers on riker's for [7,000 to 9,000] inmates.
    • RW:  [discloses that he was incarcerated for 13 years but was able to transition successfully upon release] i had a level of support that was invested in my survival and my success. that's not the case with a lot of our young people. i like to believe that food is the ultimate equalizer, no matter what your history is. you can start as a dishwasher and work up to be a chef. like my mother said, food has the ability of making people happy when it's good and making people mad when it's bad.
    • RW:  we believe in investing in human capital. [...] i believe that life lived without purpose is a life unfulfilled.
    • RW:  we do not place our young people in jobs. it's easy to put a person in a job, but it's hard for that person to maintain a job. we feel like we're preparing them to go after any preferential opportunity, instead of placing them in low-hanging fruit jobs. we believe in empowering our young people, so they can go out and fish, and we have tons of restaurants and lounges and food trucks that reach out to us [with opportunities we post on our job board].
  • KD:  tell us a little about hot bread kitchen. [read more about it here.]
    • hawa hassan:  i was in the entrepreneur portion, and, in six months, i outgrew the program. i was a one-woman show. one thing i learned is that it gives you the tools that you need, but it's completely up to you to use those to build your own business. i think having good business sense isn't that useful; if you can't make connections, you're going to have a really hard time.
    • HH:  i would say:  join an incubator. get a community that believes in you and is smarter than you. and work your butt off.
    • HH:  i cried on the sidewalk a lot. that's what you do when you're an entrepreneur.
  • KD:  you also came to america at the age of 7, by yourself as a refugee. this food industry would not exist without immigrants, and it's so scary and awful even imagining what could happen under our next president.
    • HH:  maybe one of the last things [trump] will get to is wipe out foods that are important to generations like ours.
    • HH:  i think the driving force in this country is money. i think we have more control than we know, so let your money do the talking for you. so, if he's saying, no mexicans, start buying mexican. i will use my money to do my talking for me. pay attention, and be proactive, and read read read read read. i know i'll probably never meet [trump], and i don't know what effects he'll have on me, but i know i'm a force to be reckoned with. and i will keep forging on.
  • KD:  so, our canadian, why are you still here?
    • leanne brown:  i really care about this country; i was really devastated. i felt as though some very naïve part of me died, and i'm glad it's gone because i think it wasn't helping me — it wasn't guiding me in any proper way.
    • LB:  the only way that good things and progress is made is that good people work insanely hard every single day to prevent bad things from happening.
    • LB:  one thing about anger that's really awesome is that it's really, really energizing. i feel like we can't afford to not pay attention anymore. we have to be involved and do things every single day.
  • KD:  one of the questions that's come up a lot through social media is the role of the media in all of this. and not the political media but the food media. does the food media have any responsibility to change? i'm still stuck that you were one of the only journalists covering food stamps.
    • LB:  i wrote this cookbook called good and cheap, and i wrote it as a cookbook and strategy guide that was aimed at people living on food stamps, which is about $4 a day. that's the average right now, and who knows what's going to happen to this incredibly important safety net.
    • LB:  the book is aimed at that group of people. there are about 42 million americans living on that $4 a day right now. [...] the entire population of canada is 35 million.
    • LB:  we all have to be part of our government. [she used to work in government in canada before coming to NYC to do her masters, and it was both frustrating and great because government moved so slowly, but it was ultimately where change did happen, albeit so slowly.]
    • LB:  [good and cheap] is a strategy guide. it's a way to empower people. the amazing thing about this country is that food is really cheap. maybe it's too cheap. and it's all the effort and work we put into it that makes it worth so much.
    • LB:  since putting [the book] out there, i found so much support. the cookbook ended up going kind of miniature viral, and there were all these strangers who were like "this is so great; we want to help you." we wanted the book to be free because it's for people who can't afford it.
    • LB:  hunger is such a big problem, and it can hit any of us at any time.
    • LB:  if you put your work out there, if you put your best out there, people will come support you. your neighbors might not care what you're doing, but there are other neighbors who will. 


(this was less a Q&A than people in the food industry adding comments. i'm sorry i didn't get their names.)

  • audience member:  we're in the echo chamber. we need to get out of the echo chamber.
    • [she also made a really good point about small businesses and how small business owners see things like obamacare and the increased minimum wage and say no. as a small business owner, she voted against her wallet by voting for hillary, but a lot of small business owners don't vote against their wallet.]
  • HH:  [as a green card holder who needs to renew her green card by the end of the year, she's looking at a lot of money being spent on this bureaucracy, but there's a real terror of having to whip out her green card if she's ever stopped. this fear is a real thing to many.]
    • HH:  there are no easy solutions, but i know that marching to trump tower is not something i'm interested in. frankly, it's a waste of my time. but i'm scared.
  • MS:  i would like to supply a ray of hope that trump is starting to step down [with some of the things he said he'd do], and i think there are many lobbyists who are going to try to scale him back. [like lobbyists for the agriculture industry; they're not going to let trump deport their labor force, essentially.] the more dangerous outcome of [this is that] it's [creating] really bad feelings for people of colors in their neighbors. [violence is an almost unavoidable fallout of all the hate.]
    • KD:  i think you're right in the culture he's creating. he might be dropping things, but it's about how people are treating people they don't think belong.
    • MS:  it's not just immigrants. it's anyone who does anything a little differently, the fear and hatred of the Other — and that's not necessarily immigrants.
  • KD:  this is one solution, but don't act like this is normal. we can't go back to pretending this is normal, and i think that's a big first step.