Panelists Dr. Robert S. Harvey, Carla Hall, and Natalie Baszile sit onstage at The Joy and Power of Food: A Salon, in New York City. All three are smiling.
Dr. Robert S. Harvey, Carla Hall, and Natalie Baszile at The Joy and Power of Food: A Salon, in New York City. Photo by Nikka Palapar.

Food is more than fuel. It’s a pathway to justice and joy, to creativity and confidence, and to unlocking every child’s potential. 

FoodCorps celebrates food every day, and we were especially honored to invite a community of friends and supporters to The Joy and Power of Food: A Salon, an event in New York City celebrating the joy and power of food through the Black experience. 

>> See highlights from The Joy and Power of Food panel discussion on YouTube

The event featured the following speakers:

  • Carla Hall, chef, author, television host
  • Natalie Baszile, author of Queen Sugar and We Are Each Other’s Harvest
  • Dr. Robert S. Harvey, FoodCorps Co-CEO & President

And included pop-up chats by:

  • Morgan McGhee, FoodCorps Director of School Nutrition Leadership
  • Bridgette Byrd, FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member ’22-’24 at Greater Newark Conservancy, NJ

Dr. Harvey moderated a conversation with Carla and Natalie about the power of food to nourish bodies, connect communities, nurture identity, honor legacy, and build belonging—and what joyful food experiences look like through a Black lens. As a justice organization, FoodCorps considers those elements central to how we teach children about food. 

“[FoodCorps is] in our own way helping to rewrite the narrative of who gets to be labeled and called a steward of the land,” Dr. Harvey said during the panel.

“I think about the Black single mothers who are FoodCorps service members working in their communities, career changers who are grandmas of children in the schools that we serve, folks who are trying to offer that young person in that class an alternative narrative…when you see a new narrative, you also get to write a new story.”

At different moments throughout the night, Morgan and Bridgette also shared stories about FoodCorps’ growing work with BIPOC school food leaders. Natalie spoke at length about reframing how society thinks about BIPOC farmers and other food producers:

“I understand why there has historically been a stigma around that—because people think of progress as getting away from the land. They think of progress or success as getting as far away from the land [as you can], getting your hands out of the dirt, going to be a professional in a metropolitan center someplace. That is what progress means for people of color,” she said.

“[But] I also want to remind people that there is a lot to be proud of,” she continued. “And if we shift our definition of what success looks like so that we encompass farmers, land stewards, all of these people who are taking care of the earth, who are doing a different kind of labor…then we’ll be able to honor all of this work. Because this is the future of the planet.”

Throughout the night, joy and love came up as recurring themes: the way you can feel it when someone puts their heart and soul into a dish, or the feeling of cooking a recipe just right. Carla talked about the power of sharing those lessons with kids:

“Cooking is not just about taste and culture and all of that,” she said. “[Kids] learn process in food. They learn empowerment and confidence in food when they’re doing a recipe, and it turns out, and then they give it to somebody and they’re praised for it. They learn their cultural history. [Because] if you don’t know where the dish is from, you really don’t know the dish.”

“For me it’s really about them connecting and seeing their pride in that food so that they share it,” she continued. “Because if you don’t love something, you tend to not share it. We need them to share it, and we need those kids to want to be the culinary historians of their family.”

Natalie and Carla also spoke about the food-focused projects they’re working on next, as well as their enthusiasm for FoodCorps’ 2030 goal: that all kids will have access to food education and free, nourishing food in school. Carla even hinted that she’s ready to teach students alongside our FoodCorps members in the classroom! 

It was an honor to share space with such dedicated, passionate food leaders, and we’re so grateful for their time and commitment to this work. Thank you to all attendees, speakers, and FoodCorps staff whose efforts created this incredible event! 

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