Tonya Winters, Dr. Robert S. Harvey, and Mayor Tishaura O. Jones sit onstage during FoodCorps’ AAMA panel event.
Tonya Winters, Dr. Robert S. Harvey, and Mayor Tishaura O. Jones at FoodCorps’ AAMA panel, Nourishing Just Futures for Kids. Photo by Newton Visuals.

Last month, FoodCorps had the honor of attending the African American Mayors Association (AAMA) conference, held in Atlanta from April 24–27. This marked the kickoff of FoodCorps’ Movement Building Series, a sequence of events over the next several months where we’ll join with fellow food justice advocates to build support for our partnerships with communities.

Highlights from the AAMA Conference: 

FoodCorps hosted a fireside chat for AAMA attendees called Nourishing Just Futures for Kids, featuring the Honorable Mayor Tishaura O. Jones of St. Louis, Missouri, and our President and Co-CEO, Dr. Robert S. Harvey as panelists. 

Mayor Jones was the first African American woman in state history to hold the position of Assistant Minority Floor Leader, was elected the first African American woman to be Treasurer of the City of St. Louis, and is now the first Black woman mayor in the city’s history. She highlighted her work within local municipal government channels to create change for kids, such as when she was Treasurer and created her College Kids Savings Program.

The session was moderated by community leader Tonya Winters and also included a powerful discussion with the Honorable Mayor Errick D. Simmons of Greenville, Mississippi. Mayor Simmons shared his admiration for FoodCorps’ impact in his community and the need for different levels of government to collaborate to ensure children’s access to quality, nourishing meals.

We met influential African American mayors throughout the AAMA conference, including the Honorable Mayor Jaylen Smith of Earle, Arkansas, who made history as the youngest Black mayor when he was elected at 18 years old. We also connected with leaders of banks, corporations, community-based organizations, and other groups eager to join the movement for food justice.

Attendees were encouraged to learn about where FoodCorps partners and how we decide where to grow new partnerships. And our exhibit also included a “food for thought” activity, where we asked attendees: “What culturally affirming foods would you have wanted to see on your lunch tray as a kid?” The answers ranged from curry and rice to sushi! 

The AAMA event culminated in a joyful reception, Food Justice + Funk: A Celebration of Black Excellence, a beautiful convening of grassroots and grasstops leaders in the movement for food justice. We honored Mayor Simmons with FoodCorps’ inaugural Child Well-Being Champion Award for his incredible work in the areas of expanding food education and food access for the children and families of Greenville.

We also presented SAAFON, the Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network, with the Food Justice Trailblazer Award. The leaders of SAAFON are two Black woman farmers—Alsie Parks and Whitney Jaye—co-directors of an organization of Black farmers committed to culturally relevant, ancestrally guided, and ecologically sustainable agriculture-based living.

Many community leaders, philanthropists, and even FoodCorps alums joined us for the reception to dance, mingle, and celebrate our work together. As one AAMA attendee put it: “The Black joy in this room is palpable!” 

In future Movement Building Series events, we’ll continue to embrace and amplify Black voices in government, fundraising, and media in support of our goal: mobilizing one million supporters for policies that expand free school meals; fund food educators; update garden, kitchen, and cafeteria infrastructure; strengthen local supply chains; and support the food education and school nutrition workforce—all in the name of justice for our nation’s kids. 

A special thank you to the owners and incredible staff of award-winning Atlanta-based restaurant The Consulate for hosting Food Justice + Funk: A Celebration of Black Excellence, and the talented Goode Stuff Experience featuring Tiffany Goode for providing the perfect energy for an evening of joy and celebration.

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Attendees dance and celebrate at FoodCorps’ AAMA reception, Food Justice + Funk.
Attendees dance and celebrate at FoodCorps’ AAMA reception, Food Justice + Funk. Photo by Newton Visuals.