Blog

Guest Blog: Veganism, Black Culture, and Environmental Justice

Written by William Romain

Veganism is often presented as a “white people thing.” We see images of white people with yoga pants coming out of a fancy gym with expensive kombucha in hand on their way to pick up their favorite “African Peanut Stew,” telling us that veganism is “not even that expensive!” Or, we might stumble across “The Vegan Teacher” or any of her followers on TikTok, shaming us for eating meat as it is a sin. These examples, paired with various other unfortunate tactics, tend to play into the notion that veganism is only for white and wealthy people. However, plant-based eating has a long history with African countries and other colonized nations and ethnic groups. Still, because of environmental racism, it is difficult for people of color to go back to their roots. 

“Our ancestors followed a plant-based diet, and they thrived, and most died of old age. The food they ate was organic, and meat and meat products were consumed minimally.” – Tendai Chiapara, Zimbabwean blogger

Before European colonization, various people and communities across African countries had diets rich in fruit, vegetables, and legumes. If they used meat, it was usually only served as an additional seasoning for their meals. However, once the Europeans came, they brought more than diseases. They also brought cattle and capitalistic meat-eating practices. The vast majority of Europeans believed that food was what differentiated countries and made some places superior to others. They also thought that if they were to consume foods from countries deemed inferior to them, they too would become inferior. Thus, Europeans consciously decided to violate their colonized people’s food production and consumption rights, significantly changing their diets, for the worse, for years to come. So, it is important to recognize that veganism is not something new that white people created. In fact, historically, veganism and vegetarianism are something that white people tried to destroy. Because numerous societies of color have advocated for plant-based diets for centuries, for many, plant-based eating can be a return to the homeland from which we have been deprived. 

“Our ancestors were vegan. We have always been vegan, and that tradition and culture should not be forgotten.” – Nicola Kagoro, South African Vegan chef

“It is important to spread Veganism in Africa, because it originated in Africa, our ancestors didn’t eat as much meat, it is through colonization that we learned these crazy meat eating practices.”- Niccola Chef, vegan who cooks for group of female soldiers that go after poachers based in Zimbabwe 

Despite this history, if you Google the word vegans the majority of the images that appear are of white people. However, even if one wants to deny the history, you cannot deny the current impact and benefits of plant-based eating. According to a survey from the Pew Research Center, Black people are three times more likely than white people to become vegan. The most popular reason for this, is that our bodies were not made for this colonized, eurocentric, and meat-centric diet. We can point to a study published in Circulation that reported a near 20% reduction of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) for African Americans who consumed a vegan diet for five weeks. A different study found that African Americans who ate vegan had a 44% reduced risk for hypertension, lower blood pressure, and half the risk of diabetes than nonvegan/vegetarian participants. The Adventist Health Study-2 found that for Black participants who ate a vegan/vegetarian diet, early death and cancer incidence rates were lower 36% and 22% respectively. Clearly, plant-based diets have life-saving benefits on Black people’s health. 

Unfortunately, due to environmental racism, which is defined by GreenAction as “the disproportionate impact of environmental hazards on people of color,” it is difficult for people of color to get the fresh food sources they deserve. A disproportionate amount of Black and Brown people live in places that are informally called food apartheids, which is a term that communicates that the “geographic distribution of increased barriers to food access can be explained not by a community’s lack of initiative, but by the continued legacy of racially discriminatory economic and political structures.” This means that there are more gas stations and liquor stores than grocery stores that carry fresh and farmed produce, simply because the government refuses to offer the proper food resources for these areas.

Thankfully, due to the Environmental Justice Movement, which is “an intergenerational, multi-racial and international movement, promoting environmental, economic, and social justice by recognizing the direct link between economic, environmental and health issues and demanding a safe, clean community and workplace environment,” there are many people and organizations that are helping to solve the crisis of environmental racism by providing healthy food and vegan/vegetarian options for people in need. Some organizations in Arkansas, including Be Mighty, provide fresh breakfast and lunches to kids Monday through Saturday. Other necessary organizations are community gardens, specifically the Dunbar Community Garden whose mission is “to provide educational resources and interactive opportunities for youth, families, and the community through sustainable urban agriculture.” There are a few restaurants that can also be included in this list, one of my favorites is The House of Mental. This is a Black owned, soul food based, vegan restaurant in downtown Little Rock. Restaurants like this, offer the chance to healthily experience the richly flavored and bomb cooking that is arguably the basis of Black culture. 

Veganism and vegetarianism have never been just a white people thing. It is important for us to recognize that plant-based eating has a flavorful and dynamic history with many ethnic groups and this lifestyle has the ability to save many of us (health-wise), if we can work together to fight and provide ourselves with the resources we deserve.

Citations:

https://foodispower.org

https://plantbasednews.org/culture/black-americans-more-likely-to-be-vegan-than-white-americans/

https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2016/12/01/the-new-food-fights/

https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/vegan-diets-decrease-heart-attack-risk-among-african-americans

https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/healthy-communities/black-health

https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/seventh-day-adventists-have-lower-risk-cancer-and-death

https://greenaction.org/what-is-environmental-justice/

https://thebolditalic.com/vegetarianism-isnt-just-for-white-people-6f0c6c348050

https://greenaction.org

https://utenvironment.org/projects/microfarm/food-justice/glossary/food-apartheid-not-desert/

https://thinkzerollc.com/zero-waste-blog-1/f/food-deserts-are-environmental-racism-at-work

http://dunbargarden.org

About the Author:

William Romain has been a dedicated volunteer with the Be Mighty program throughout the pandemic. He is a senior at Little Rock Central High School and has called the library “home” as long as he can remember. William says working with Be Mighty this past year has been his saving grace amidst all the craziness, and that discussions with other volunteers and folks collecting meals have only fueled his passion for food. “From talking about institutionalized racism to the incredibleness of David Fincher,” Be Mighty has given him a place to express his thoughts amidst a food community so open to discussion, growth, and learning.

Read William’s previous guest blog here:

Disclaimer: The content in this blog post does not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the Be Mighty program or the Central Arkansas Library System. We share it to spark conversation and discussion, and to share a glimpse into the thoughts of the audience we serve most closely, kids and teens 18 and under in Little Rock.

If you would like to write a guest blog for Be Mighty Little Rock, please contact Jasmine Zandi, jzandi@cals.org.

AmeriCorps Service Members at CALS: Becoming better advocates through service

This summer, the Be Mighty team grew to a size we haven’t seen since the program’s inception. Working with the national AmeriCorps program, we hosted 4 summer AmeriCorps VISTA Associates. Coupled with the 3 long-term service members already serving with the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS); our program was able to take exciting new strides! Not only were our members excited to continue the meal distribution program, but they were instrumental in piloting new programs as well. Ever flexible and always up for a challenge, we could not have asked for a better group of members.  

Please join us in thanking these amazing people for their service to the Central Arkansas Library System, and the Be Mighty campaign. Below you will read about some of their many accomplishments, as well as segments of their key takeaways from the experience.  

Thank you, Ashley, Lily, Katie, Megan, Jamee, Sierra, and Olivia (all pictured). You are all rockstars!  

 

Megan began a year-long service term as Be Might Little Rock VISTA in August 2020 and has served in various capacities throughout. Especially when struck with the difficulties of the pandemic, Megan was a tremendous help in maintaining our momentum, ensuring the community always had up-to-date information regarding key resources through the implementation of marketing and communications strategies. Megan also assisted with meal and produce box distributions at branches system-wide, and even hosted various projects, such as a panel discussion of local leaders for MLK Jr. Day. She says the year has made a tremendous impact on her career, and she is glad to have served with Be Mighty Little Rock. 

Olivia began a year-long term as Grants& Development VISTA in January 2021. In this first portion of the service term, Olivia has been integral to the CALS Development team, diligently researching grants aimed at alleviating poverty, specifically related to library initiatives such as the Be Mighty program, Rock It! Lab, Community Resources Department, and Outreach Department. She also works on grants that relate to education, crafting proposals for literacy kits or tool kits for the CALS tool library. Without such grants and diligent research behind the scenes, many of our programs could not exist! We are so happy to still have a few months with her!  

Katie began an 8-month term with CALS at the Children’s Library and Learning Center as an AmeriCorps Full Circle FarmCorps Team Leader. Through the FarmCorps pillars of farm, outreach, and teach, Katie has served to address food insecurity and strengthen communities in Pulaski County. As a part of her service, Katie has assisted the management and beautification of the garden, greenhouse, and apiary at Children’s, resulting in over 650 pounds of fresh produce that was used in gardening/nutrition education programs or provided free to local patrons. She produced or contributed to several streams of kids virtual and in-person programming, and even facilitated an entire virtual nutrition education program using the Growing MyPlate curriculum.  

Lucky for us, Katie has accepted a position with Be Mighty as the new Garden & Nutrition Education Facilitator. She will be leading children’s garden and nutrition education courses throughout the fall.  Keep an eye out and take advantage of all the knowledge Katie has to share!  

The Be Mighty summer VISTA Associates began their terms in June 2021 and served with 4 different CALS branches: Ashley with Dee Brown Library, Jamee with Children’s Library, Lily with McMath Library, and Sierra with Main Library. The objective of the Associate service term was to increase food security in Little Rock by increasing the number of meals served through the USDA meal distribution program, referring patrons to federal/community resources, and providing educational programming about nutrition for children. Food insecurity among children is a significant issue throughout Arkansas, and particularly in Little Rock, where 77% of children qualify for free and reduced meals. The Associates not only provided relief through meals, but also organized programming to help families support themselves through federal benefits, like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and nutrition education.  

Throughout the months of June and July, the Associates distributed a total of 6259 meals to kids and teens across just their 4 branches with an average daily participation of around 128 kids. They also became trained SNAP navigators through the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, participated in the SNAP Challenge, and established weekly SNAP office hours at their library branches for patrons who may need food resources. Though only up and running for a short time, these office hours seemed to be a success!

— You can read more about the importance of SNAP and the Associates’ experience with the SNAP Challenge in our previous blog post, titled SNAP Challenge: Reflections and Resources —  

Lastly, the Associates were key to launching Be Mighty nutrition education. We hosted several nutrition education opportunities for children in June and July, both virtually and in-person, and the Associates prepped hundreds of accompanying recipe kits, planned & facilitated lessons, and developed curriculum content to a format suitable for a free online curriculum to be available to kids throughout the 2021-2022 schoolyear on Niche Academy. Not only is it important for individuals to have money to spend on food, but nutrition education is vital in empowering individuals with the confidence to cook easy, healthy, and affordable meals at home for themselves and their families.  

Overall, growing more informed on the issue of hunger at-large has helped the Associates become better advocates. Ashley, who hails from Mississippi, agreed that the opportunities to immerse herself in the LR community brought light to the issues most of the community is facing and helped her understand how best to address the issue during her term. As Sierra shared, the severity of the issue at hand may seem alarming but hearing positive patron feedback about how programs like Be Mighty can help alleviate the burden of poverty keep us motivated to continue strong.   

Jamee said sharing what she has learned, and helping others become more aware of the resources available to them throughout Little Rock has not only helped her grow as an advocate, but also as an individual and artist, and she feels she is now professionally better suited to serve communities. Lily highlighted that through this experience, she learned the issue of food insecurity in Arkansas is complex and must be approached from many angles. Although it is essential to health and happiness, food is often sacrificed when families face financial hardship, so addressing the need for food and the root of financial hardship are both necessary to eradicate food insecurity.  

Our service members made the most of the unique experience that an AmeriCorps terms with CALS provided them. Libraries have long acted as resource hubs, and CALS and Be Mighty are excited to continue finding innovative approaches to support our community in the fight against hunger. We know that none of this work would be possible without dedicated folks like you all who make the work feel (almost) easy. We appreciate you and wish you all the best in your future endeavors!

SNAP Challenge: Reflection & Resources

Most know Be Mighty to be a meal distribution program. While this has been our focus, we are also expanding our capacity to facilitate nutrition education courses, and conduct food security screenings and referrals. Thanks to the help of our summer Associates, we have taken a big leap forward in our goals to provide greater access to not only food, but also broader food resources.  

There is no denying that these have been difficult times. When the world fell into the pandemic, we fell into a lot of uncertainty. Many also fell deeper into poverty. Hunger was always a problem before the pandemic, but we saw it more broadly when the pandemic hit. With support from the National Recreation & Park Association’s Nutrition Hub grant, we have conducted hundreds of food security screenings and referrals so far this summer. These screenings measure food insecurity and based on the responses, we can point individuals to key resources they may not already be accessing, such as SNAP. You can access the questions here: https://bemightylittlerock.org/food-survey-resource-referral/  

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps, is the greatest resource available to Americans experiencing food insecurity. It is a voucher program providing nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget for families and individuals in need so they can purchase healthy foods and move towards self-sufficiency. 

It became clear during the pandemic how close the average American could be to teetering between food secure and insecure. It only takes one major shift to really throw things off. One medical emergency, one car engine needing to be replaced unexpectedly, and the list goes on. Most don’t stay on SNAP for long, but it alleviates hardship to some degree while they return to complete self-sufficiency. This social safety net is key to ensuring hunger is eradicated throughout our community.

SNAP gives folks the freedom to make their own food decisions. You can even use your SNAP benefits at a local farmer’s market! Many are enrolled in the Double Up Food Bucks program, allowing SNAP recipients to double their dollars at the market. Utilization of federal SNAP dollars puts money back into local businesses and corporations. In 2009, it was recorded that every $1 increase in SNAP benefits generated an estimated $1.79-$1.84 in economic activity (https://www.snaptohealth.org/snap/the-real-benefits-of-the-snap-program/). According to the USDA, SNAP participation for 6 months was associated with a 5 to 10 percent decrease in food insecurity, including households with food insecure children.

First, our Associates were trained as SNAP navigators. Bobbi McDaniel with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance walked us through the application, answering common questions or concerns that may arise during the application process. After all, the application process is extensive. Many would even say that the application process itself is even a barrier to folks who may need the assistance. Once our Associates became familiar with the application process, we also wanted to familiarize them with an average week as someone who receives SNAP benefits. The Food Research & Action Center developed a SNAP Challenge. This challenge helps to educate the public and leaders about the important role SNAP plays in mitigating hunger and poverty.  


Here is what 2 of our Associates wrote about their experiences while participating in the SNAP Challenge:

Ashley Nguyen (Summer AmeriCorps VISTA Associate – Dee Brown Library)  

The challenge of spending only $20 dollars on groceries for the week seemed daunting even before the week began. This was less than half my usual budget; I spent a few days planning and preparing myself for the week. I used the grocery store apps to find prices and figure out my game plan which made things a little easier when going shopping. At the end of the shopping trip, my groceries consisted of lots of carbs. I went into the first day of the challenge with a good attitude and high energy; I was able to stay within budget and felt hopeful about the next few days. This positive attitude began to fade when my exhaustion due to a rapid swap in food choices began to creep up on me. I felt more irritable and grew tired of eating the same meals every day. By the fourth day, I was ready to call quits and I did. The experience opened my eyes to the struggles many people go through; the most concerning part was how little variety in produce I could have with my budget. Food choices are limited when you don’t have the means to pay for good nutrient dense food and unfortunately, this is the reality for many Americans.  

Jamee McAdoo (Summer AmeriCorps VISTA Associate – Children’s Library) 

After just the first day of participating in the SNAP Challenge of $4 a day/$20 a work week, I instantly saw how difficult it would be to eat off $4 a day! 

Having to plan ahead, count dollars, and make sure I wasn’t overspending. Overall, I did cut out some snacks, and I tried to eat out less, but I mainly ate this week as I usually do, and I still ended up spending nearly $50! 

SNAP is a great resource and initiative to support individuals in need of a little assistance; however, even with this aid, most still struggle. 

I see that it is a privilege to not feel stuck or limited in food options. The pressure of saving money adds so much stress that things like health and nutritional value oftentimes can’t be a priority. 

I encourage everyone to spend a week really observing and calculating how much money is spent on food. Look at the different food choices you’d make with only $20 to spend for that week on meals and put yourself in the shoes of someone forced to live more frugal. 


If you, or someone you know, needs assistance with their SNAP application, the address for a foodbank or food pantry in their area, and more, you can visit our Associates during their SNAP office hours until the beginning of August. Their hours are listed below.  

Children’s Library & Learning Center: Monday and Tuesday 1:30-2:30pm 

Dee Brown Library: Mondays 1:00-3:00pm 

Main Library: Wednesdays 9:30-10:30am 

McMath Library: Tuesdays 1:00-3:00pm 

You can also contact the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance SNAP Hotline at: 1-833-SNAP-ARK (1-833-762-7275). The hotline is staffed Monday – Friday 10 a.m. – 3p.m. Get answers to SNAP questions and help with your application.  


Linked below are a number of useful documents from the NRPA: 

Using SNAP/WIC benefits at the Farmers Market 

SNAP Eligibility Checklist for Families 

SNAP Enrollment Documentation Checklist 

WIC Eligibility Checklist for Families 

WIC Enrollment Documentation Checklist 

Engage AR’s Juneteenth Summit

Author: Lily Berry

Early last week, two of the Be Mighty Americorps VISTAs, Megan Bellfield and Lily Berry, spent two days in Petit Jean learning about holding constructive conversations, pitching themselves to future programs, and meeting Americorps members from across the state of Arkansas.

Though only a short hour’s drive from the Central Arkansas Library System, Petit Jean seemed to belong to an entirely different world than downtown Little Rock. There, nature sprawled beyond the sightline, providing the perfect environment for the VISTAs to meet and grow together. The retreat took place at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute, which is perched over a picturesque valley overlooking the natural state in all its glory. The Winthrop Rockefeller Institute “develops programs that create sustainable and positive change to benefit the quality of life of all Arkansans.” Bellfield and Berry attended the “Beyond Civility” program, led by Heather Southard. The Beyond Civility program follows the Winthrop Rockefeller ideal of collaborative approaches to create transformational change by teaching participants how to engage in challenging conversations and work toward lasting solutions. The program emphasizes mutual understanding and empathy as pathways toward constructive discussion, especially when it comes to difficult or divisive subjects. Bellfield and Berry practiced asking questions with the intent of understanding, rather than (often unconsciously) inserting an opinion.

After a full day of personal and professional development, the group of 18 Americorps members in attendance split up into groups for a team building exercise including pirates, pizza, and pitching. Each group competed for glory and prizes, seeking to make the best pizza and advertisement based on their theme: cowboys, pirates, or firemen. Megan Bellfield’s Howdy Pizza Co. (representing the cowboys, of course) came home with first place, narrowly beating Lily Berry’s Spectacul-ARRGH Pizza (representing the pirate faction).

Taking advantage of the beautiful scenery, perfect weather, and Rockefeller resources, Bellfield and Berry toured the property on bikes reserved for guests. They met some of the cows living on the land, explored the farmstead, and encountered a few surprisingly difficult hills! Of course, they couldn’t turn in for the night without a s’more and walk to the breathtaking scenic overlook on the property.

The retreat would not be complete without discussing the reason for the season: Juneteenth. Participants enjoyed a lovely presentation from Clarice and Kwami Abdul-Bey, representatives of the Arkansas Peace and Justice Memorial Movement, outlining the history of Juneteenth and its significance to us, both as Americorps members and American citizens. With a spirit of service and connections across communities, the Americorps members designed and pledged their time to service projects in their fields to celebrate and honor Juneteenth this year. Whether

they chose to donate blood, organize meetings with their elected officials, or spend some extra time in the community, these Americorps members will be serving their communities with pride this Juneteenth.

This summit in Petit Jean provided Megan Bellfield, Lily Berry, and all of the participants with an incredible opportunity for personal and professional growth that they will be able to

implement in their service sites. Our Be Mighty representatives returned to Little Rock refreshed and ready to better serve their communities, having learned how to engage in complex dialogue, advocate for themselves, and build relationships across the state

Summer 2021 Meal Schedule and Locations

Summer Meals start June 1, 2021 and are FREE for kids 18 years old and younger. Summer Meals end August 14, 2021.

Monday-Saturday| 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.  

Library locations:

  • Children’s Library and Learning Center located at 4800 W. 10th St.  
  • Dee Brown Library located at 6325 Baseline Dr. 
  • Fletcher Library located at 823 N. Buchanan St.|Fletcher will serve meals from 4:00-5:30 p.m. M-S
  • Main Library located at 100 Rock Street.   
  • Maumelle Library located at 10 Lake Pointe Dr., Maumelle 
  • McMath Library located at 2100 John Barrow Rd.|McMath will serve meals from 4:00-5:30 p.m. M-F and Sat. from 11:00-12:30 p.m.
  • Nixon Library located at 703 W. Main St., Jacksonville 
  • Rooker Library located at 11 Otter Creek Ct.
  • Sanders Library located at 10200 Johnson Dr., Sherwood  
  • Terry Library located at 2015 Napa Valley Dr. 
  • Williams Library located at 1800 Chester St. 

Monday-Friday

Non-library locations:

Feed First USA located at 6124 Baseline Rd. |Breakfast & Lunch: 10:00AM -11:00AM 

Autumn Parc Apartments  located at 43 Warren Dr. |Breakfast & Lunch:10:00AM-10:30AM 

Colonial Parc Apartments located at 5813 Baseline Rd. |Breakfast & Lunch: 10:45AM-11:30AM 

Villa De Cancun Apartments located at 5300 Baseline Rd. |Breakfast & Lunch: 11:40AM-12:15PM 

Terra Vista Apartments located at 4811 Terra Vista Cir. |Breakfast & Lunch: 10:00AM-10:45AM 

Spanish Jon Apartments located at 5001 W. 65th Street. |Breakfast & Lunch: 11:00AM-11:30AM 

Residence at Wakefield located at 6600 Lancaster Rd.| Breakfast & Lunch: 11:40AM-12:15PM 

Southern Pines Mobile Homes located at 9500 Heights Rd.| Breakfast & Lunch: 11:30AM-11:50AM 

Spanish Willow Apartments located at 7510 Geyer Springs Rd.| Breakfast & Lunch: 10:00AM -10:30AM 

Spring Valley Apt. located at 8701 I-30| Breakfast & Lunch: 10:40AM-11:15AM 

Whispering Hills Mobile Homes located at 11500 Chicot Rd.| Breakfast & Lunch: 11:25AM-12:15PM 

The Impact Center located at 5705 W 65th St. |Breakfast & Lunch: 10:00AM-10:45AM

Meet Jasmine Zandi, Be Mighty Little Rock Coordinator

Meet our Canadian, Iranian, American, Hendrix Class of 2020 Alumna, and new Be Mighty Coordinator Jasmine Zandi. Hailing from Ottawa, Canada, Zandi has become one of Little Rock’s brightest young leaders to fight the good fight of providing sustainable access to nutritious and affordable food. 

Her odyssey to Be Mighty Little Rock started in Conway, Arkansas at Hendrix College where she majored in French and International Development & Sustainability. 

“The summer after my freshman year at Hendrix, I had the opportunity to work with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance as a No Kid Hungry Youth Ambassador” said Zandi. “I’ve always loved food and kids, so this seemed like the perfect fit.” Little did Zandi know that she would become invested in the anti-hunger community in Little Rock and around the state. 

At Hendrix College, Zandi had the opportunity to study Political Science in France for a year, making her fluent in three languages—English, French, and Farsi. Her time abroad gave her insight on hunger around the globe. Zandi explained, “Hunger is not isolated to the United States. Some countries have much better programs in place to help their citizens, but the problem is quite large. It is quite daunting to think about, but I am motivated by the things I can do in my local community.” Getting involved in her local community is exactly what she did. 

After graduating from Hendrix in the spring of 2020, she became an AmeriCorps Service member at the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance (AHRA). AmeriCorps is a federal public service program that encourages volunteerism to fill needs within the community. At the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, Zandi learned that the issue of hunger is not only large, but it is also incredibly multi-faceted. She stated, “we cannot successfully fight hunger if we are not also advocating for affordable housing, SNAP, public health, and environmental sustainability.” Her experience at AHRA spring boarded her into Be Mighty Little Rock. 

Zandi shared, “the wonderful folks at the Alliance, who encouraged me to continue my passion for hunger advocacy in Arkansas, thought I should apply for this role.” Since joining the Central Arkansas Library System team, Jasmine has led free food box distributions and helped produce meal kits for cooking demonstrations. However, Zandi has realized that there are still plenty of people unaware of Be Mighty. She shared, “considering we are offering FREE meals, folks seem hesitant to take advantage of resources like Be Mighty. Outreach is an area in which I hope we can make significant progress in the next year. I want everyone to know about the range of resources available throughout the city of Little Rock.” 

The new coordinator plans to measure Be Mighty’s success similarly to former coordinator, Kay Kay DeRossette. Zandi shared, “Kay Kay has mentioned this before, but we aren’t so much focused on numbers, because numbers do not paint a holistic picture of hunger in Little Rock. We could say we doubled the number of meals served, but is it because we had appropriate outreach strategies, or because need grew exponentially? Instead, long-term partnerships, especially those that are wide-reaching, will be much more impactful for the local community.” 

Zandi has a big job to do. Fortunately, she has good habits to keep herself focused and Be Mighty on track. She takes care of herself by practicing mindfulness. Whether it is going for a walk, talking to a friend, turning the phone off or reading a book, Zandi tries to practice good habits to keep herself going. She also has the support of a loving family. Her brother Hameed, 17, graduates Central High an entire year early with the class of 2021, her mom is a research scientist, her dad works in IT, and who can forget their family shih-tzu Emma,14, who she loves to visit. They are in her corner and so is Central Arkansas Library System. Welcome to CALS, Jasmine! 

P.S. Happy Birthday, Jasmine!  

April’s Resource Round Up

This Earth month, we learned invaluable information from our Little Rock community about practical sustainability. Thanks to our friends at The Root Cafe and Arkansas Potluck Rescue, we were able to compile a list of resources that nurture you and the community.

Below is a list of local Farmer’s Markets that are open this Spring! Can’t make it in-person? No worries, the Arkansas Local Food Network offers online shopping for locally sourced produce.

Are you a SNAP recipient? According to Arkansas Human Services, you are eligible to participate in The double-up food bucks program. “Food Bucks allow SNAP clients to receive a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $20 per market day, to buy fruits and vegetables. You get two for the price of one.” Here is the list of Farmer’s Markets and grocery stores that participate in the double-up food bucks program.

Market  Day(s)/Time/Seasons  Location 
Bernice Farmers Market  Sunday 10 AM-1 PM  
Open April-October
1401 S Main St, Little Rock, AR 72202 
Hillcrest Farmers Market  

Saturdays year-round 
7 A.M.-10 A.M. 
*abbreviated hours.
Spring-Summer hours are 7 AM to Noon.
October to April 8 AM to Noon 
2220 Kavanaugh Blvd, Little Rock, AR 72205 
Me and McGee Market  

Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
Thursday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM 
Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Sunday: 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Mon-Tues: Closed 
10409 US-70, North Little Rock, AR 72117 
Arkansas Local Food Network (online/in-person)  Saturday 10 AM-12 PM  
Shop online here
509 Scott St, Little Rock, AR 72201 
Bramble Market  

Wednesday, 9AM–6PM 
Thursday, 9AM–6PM 
Friday, 9AM–6PM
Saturday, 9AM–4PM 
Sunday, 1–4PM 
Mon-Tues: Closed   
9325 Ferndale Cutoff Rd, Little Rock, AR 72223 
The Curve Market  

Monday: Closed 
Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM 
Wednesday: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM 
Thursday: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM 
Friday: 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM 
Sunday: 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM  
15235 Hwy 165 Scott, Arkansas 72142 
Downtown Little Rock Farmer’s Market  
Opens May 1, 2021 
Saturday, 7 am – 3 pm from May through September 
400 President Clinton Ave, Little Rock, AR 7220 

Buying local produce is important and so is managing food waste. As a community, we can continue to reduce food waste by looking to Arkansas Potluck Food Rescue for guidance. “APFR’s operating model is to recover food from commercial kitchens like restaurants, caterers, grocers, hotels, and hospitals. They provide recovered food to hunger relief agencies so that they can better serve their constituents.” Read Arkansas Potluck Food Rescue’s 2020 annual report here and how you can cut down on food waste.

Our Pandemic Journey

March 2021 marked one year since we started to feel the drastic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 has revealed that early action is pertinent for managing health crises. Many Americans were shocked to witness the fragility of our healthcare system and how unprepared our government leaders were during a time of crisis. Throughout the year, misinformation and disinformation was rampant, quality of treatment and the death toll highlighted disparities in healthcare due to race and income, jobs were lost, and businesses closed, and we saw an uptick of racialized violence towards Asian Americans in part due to the former president’s continued use of the term “China virus.” The country was in trouble. However, states, cities, and organizations, including Be Mighty, took action to provide some normalcy and continue supporting the community during challenging times. 

The spread of COVID-19 has impacted Be Mighty’s meal service, community engagement, and strategic initiatives. However, to embrace the new normal, Be Mighty committed to virtual nutrition education, socially distant food distributions, and consistently provided readily available meals at library branches. 

April of 2020 was our busiest month in terms of meals served. We served a combination of breakfast, lunch, and supper, with a total of 19,968 meals served that month. Between the months of March and August we served between 12,000 and 20,000 meals each month. September to December of 2020 required us to rethink our outreach. Most students were starting school virtually, which led to a substantial drop in the number of meals served. However, meal sites remained open, even during the deadliest seasons of the pandemic. 

To reach more families, we partnered with Well Fed Arkansas and hosted food box distributions in November and December. Each produce box contained 30 pounds of fresh food along with easy healthy recipe sheets.. With the help of our dedicated volunteers, we were able to distribute 550 boxes of fresh food to Little Rock families. The food distribution was a successful way for us to provide immediate support to the community. We continued to partner with organizations in the community during the holiday season. The restaurant, @ The Corner donated several family-style meals to low-income families during Thanksgiving. 

Our community outreach did not stop after the holiday season! In January 2021, we were able to host a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Virtual program to inform Little Rock youth about the importance of civic engagement. On January 18, 2021, the virtual event streamed via Zoom, YouTube, and Facebook Live. The first one hundred people to register received a free copy of Congressman John Lewis’s “March: Book 1” illustrated by North Little Rock native Nate Powell, who joined us for the virtual discussion. He discussed his career as an illustrator and his relationship with the late Congressman Lewis. We also learned from Little Rock’s public service leaders Mayor Frank Scott Jr., City Director Antwan Phillips, Senator Joyce Elliott, Chief Education Officer Dr. Jay Barth, and Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement co-directors Kwami and Clarice Abdul-Bey. As part of the event, students also had the opportunity to participate in a national service meet and greet that introduced them to AmeriCorps State, VISTA, and National Civilian Community Corps. This event was a success. We reached over 200 youth in the city and collaborated with the Little Rock School District, Mount St. Mary Academy, Episcopal Collegiate School, Pulaski Academy, and Catholic High School to increase student attendance. 

In the month of January, we also welcomed our first Farm Corps member. Farm Corps is an AmeriCorps program with the purpose to confront food insecurity and strengthen communities through farming, outreach, and teaching. Our Farm Corps member, Katie Matthews, will help us with gardening projects and farm education curriculum such as Growing My Plate. Growing My Plate is a 6-week course designed to connect students to where their food comes from, build enthusiasm for fruits and vegetables, and give them confidence to make their own healthy dishes at home. The goal of the program is to connect students with the garden and inspire them to cook and prepare healthy food at home. 

The last year has been tumultuous. To honor the lives lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, former Be Mighty Coordinator Kay Kay DeRossette joined Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and others from around the city on March 12, 2021, to commemorate one year of partnering for pandemic relief. During the event, city leaders paused for a moment of silence to honor all the community members that are no longer with us. We also celebrated the sense of community that was created through pandemic relief programs, which included food distributions. It was clear that there are many people in Little Rock who care for one another and are looking forward to the days to come—when more people are vaccinated, and the virus is no longer a threat. View the entire ceremony here.  

Thought #1 from a Vegan Teenager

Disclaimer: This is not supposed to guilt you into becoming a full-fledged vegan, where you consume no animal products ever. This is the simple plea of a teenage kid who loves animals. This is me hoping to inspire you to acknowledge the exploitative system known as factory farming and acknowledge the role we all play in keeping this system alive. 

Hi! My name is William Romain, and I became interested in animal issues around a year ago while doing an English assignment, so I am thrilled to write about the different things I have learned over the past year. Throughout this blog series, I am going to debrief topics such as “why most Americans can go vegan or vegetarian” to “the 1% of ethical farmers” to “how to be an intersectional vegan” to “where to find the BEST vegan restaurants in Little Rock,” all partnered with a new recipe for you to try at home! Today, we will be talking about factory farming’s impact on the environment and how we can all help save the planet. 

During the summer of 2020, I read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. In this book, Foer lays the facts of what it means to eat meat in this factory-farmed-dominated country, and this includes the suffering of animals, environmental destruction, and a risk to human health. As I read the book and then listened to panel discussions with Foer, I began to think about the impact animals have had on my life since I was a child. In the past, I used to care for my stuffed animals and wish for zoo animals’ freedom, and as I have gotten older, I lost touch with what it is I am actually consuming when I eat meat: a sentient being. The more I read, the wider my eyes got, and I began to see that not only does eating factory-farmed meat contribute to the harm of innocent animals, but it also is amongst the leading causes for climate change. I began to understand that not only am I unconsciously participating in the slaughter of these animals but by reducing my animal consumption, I can help to save our dying planet.

“If every American reduced their [factory-farmed] meat consumption one less meal a week (about a quarter pound of beef), then that would be the equivalent of taking ten million cars off the road annually.”

Sujatha Bergen, the National Resources Defense Council’s health campaign director

Did you know that over 99% of animals used for food live on factory farms trapped in tiny, filthy, and inhumane cages? Can you imagine living in such a place? In our current environmental climate, factory farming is an unsustainable method of production that is used to raise animals to produce a lot of food quickly to meet the demands of the consumers. Unfortunately, because of the number of animals that are contained in just one factory farm (anywhere from 1,000 beef cattle to 125,000 broiler chickens), there is quite a bit of manure produced. These high quantities of manure, stored in large open-air lagoons, are basically lakes filled with animal waste. These lakes can spill out into other bodies of water and contaminate them, destroying various sea life creatures. To empty the lagoons, a spraying system is employed which harms the local environment as it pollutes air and water and releases harmful amounts of gasses such as methane and carbon dioxide. This ultimately impacts the environment at large and immediately affects the communities surrounding these farms. According to the United Nations, factory farming is one of the top 3 most significant contributors to climate change and other serious environmental problems.

One of the most extreme examples of this phenomenon can be found in Iowa’s farming of hogs. In 2019 alone, Iowa saw that thirty-nine million pigs were to be used for food production in factory farms. According to Dr. Mark Sobsey from the University of North Carolina, an adult swine (pig) produces about ten times as much feces as humans do, making the Iowan pigs of 2019 produce the waste of approximately three-hundred-and-ninety million humans. That is over sixty million more than the number of people that live in the United States. Today, Iowa has over eight times the amount of pigs as they do humans, and because they produce ten times the amount of waste, this causes the citizens to endure overwhelming odors, risk of infectious diseases, the inability to enjoy unpolluted air, and the loss of a clean water supply. 

Now you might say, “But, I need to get my calcium, iron, protein, and other important nutrients from pork/other animal products, so I HAVE to eat factory farmed meat!” Well, according to the American Dietetic Association, a vegan diet is healthy, safe, and nutritionally adequate for all stages of life including pregnancy, fluctuation, and infancy. There are plenty of vegetables and food products that are just as high, if not higher, in the amount of calcium, iron, and protein as animal products. For high amounts of calcium, there are soy foods (soy milk, soybeans), winged beans, okra, kale, and Brussels sprouts. For high amounts of iron, there are lentils, quinoa, chia seeds, and kale. For high amounts of protein, there are chickpeas, seitan, green peas, oatmeal, spinach, and potatoes. The point is that factory-farmed products are not the only, or the best, sources of nutrients available to you. Vegetables, legumes, and soy products, amongst other things, all have naturally high amounts of the same nutrients found in dairy/beef/pork products, and they are safer for every being involved. 

It is important to understand that this post is not meant to blame consumers for feeding into the lies told by most food production facilities in the United States. These facilities purposely try and hide their industries’ disastrous ways because they know precisely the harm they are placing on these innocent animals. However, as a consumer, you can begin to limit your support for these facilities by replacing one meal a day that relies heavily on animal products with a meal that uses little to no animal products. If that seems too ambitious to start with, perhaps you could start by replacing a meal a week and working your way to a meal a day. One of my personal favorite non-animal-based meals that you can try at home is a chickpea, mango, and avocado salad over kale with a side of oven-roasted, lemon zested brussels sprouts and baked sweet potato bites. 

Salad Ingredients:

  1. 1 can chickpeas (1.5 cups), rinsed and drained
  2. ½ red onion, diced
  3. 1 mango, cubed
  4. 1 avocado, cubed
  5. Chopped cilantro
  6. 3 tablespoons lemon juice 
  7. 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  8. ¼ teaspoon ground cumin 
  9. Dash of chili powder
  10. Salt, to taste
  11. Kale (however much you want)

Instructions:

  1. For the salad, combine all the ingredients, except the kale, and chill until ready to serve. 
  2. Once ready, place the combination over kale and enjoy!

Sides Ingredients:

  1. Brussels sprouts (however much you want)
  2. Lemons (for every 10 brussels sprouts, use 1 lemon) 
  3. Olive Oil (for every 10 brussels sprouts, use 1 tablespoon olive oil)
  4. 1 sweet potato
  5. Cinnamon 
  6. Brown sugar 
  7. Vegan Butter (if you want butter)

Instructions:

  1. For the brussels sprouts, put the oven on 400° F
  2. Sprinkle the brussels sprouts with olive oil
  3. Use the juice from the lemon to sprinkle over the brussels sprouts. Then use the rest of the lemon to grate over the sprouts (if you so choose)
  4. Bake the brussels sprouts for about 30 minutes, or until they seem tender
  5. For the sweet potato, peel the skin off and cut it into bite-sized pieces
  6. with the oven still, at 400° F, bake it for 15-20 minutes
  7. Once finished, top it with vegan butter, then the brown sugar and cinnamon
  8. Enjoy!

Now, I may be sharing knowledge that you have already accessed, but if not, I hope that this post has widened your eyes to the truth behind how most of the meat is produced in America and its impact on the environment, just as Jonathan Foer’s book did for me. 

About the Author: 

My name is William Romain, and I am a junior (virtually 🙁 ) at Little Rock Central High School. I have been a volunteer with Be Mighty for almost a year, but I have called the library my home since forever. Working with Be Mighty this past year has been my saving grace with getting through the craziness of 2020/2021 and has led me to work and talk with incredible people: both volunteers and people collecting meals. From talking about institutionalized racism to the incredibleness of David Fincher, I will always cherish my Meal Service conversations. Thank you Be Mighty for being an incredible organization and for allowing me a place to express my thoughts. 

“Changing how we eat will not be enough, on its own, to save the planet, but we cannot save the planet without changing how we eat.”

Jonathan Safran Foer

Citations:

Christen, Caroline. Top Pork Producing States: Who Is the Largest Pork Producer in the U.S.? 1 Feb. 2021, sentientmedia.org/top-pork-producing-states/. 

Curry, Lynne. Is The Movement To Eat Less Meat Actually making a difference? 30 July 2019, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/eat-less-meat-environmental-effect_l_5d39d84fe4b020cd99501f2d

“Ending Factory Farming: Environmental Damage.” Compassion in World Farming, Compassion in World Farming, http://www.ciwf.org.uk/factory-farming/environmental-damage/. 

“Factory Farming: The Industry Behind Meat and Dairy.” Peta.org, PETA, 30 Dec. 2020, http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/. 


“Student Project: Factory Farming: Environmental Impacts.” Research Guides, Pace Law Library, 13 Apr. 2020, libraryguides.law.pace.edu/c.php?g=452979&p=3107602.