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When Bria Hutson grew up in East Oakland, California, she lived a daily life. Every day after school, she and her friends stopped by a corner shop to load chips, soda, and other junk food. The nearest grocery store was miles away and her mom didn’t drive.
Everyone around her ate fast food on a regular basis, and when it comes to fruits and vegetables, her exposure was with iceberg lettuce, apples and other basic fruits sold in the local Bodegas. It was limited to vegetables.
But when Hatson’s son was born in 2012, she knew she needed to change her unhealthy habits. Born two years later, sons and daughters never frown on kale, broccoli, or other vegetables on the plate, as she buys more produce and begins to learn creative cooking methods. did.
Healthy cooking became a passion and she began receiving orders from locals, including friends and neighbors. She made burger-like foods made from jackfruit instead of meat, and made healthy nachos stuffed with vegetables and quinoa instead of processed cheese.
Hatson operates and permits the food business with the help of Mandela Partners, a non-profit organization working to support local food entrepreneurs and increase access to healthy foods in low-income communities. Assistance, and perhaps most importantly, a kiosk in the community market, free for 3 months.
“Deep East Auckland is still a food desert and residents need to travel to another community to access healthy food. This is a problem. From this experience I started my business. Ju’C Fruits. I’m the change I want to see. “
Founded in 2004, Mandela Partners was born out of a community effort to bring grocery stores to West Auckland. Over the years, Mandela has expanded to include business incubation and entrepreneurship training services, community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, and a product distribution network that connects more than 12 local farmers with local retailers. I did.
As a result, farmers have access to fair prices for their customers and produce, and residents of Auckland and the surrounding area have access to healthy and affordable food.
The activities of nonprofits are driven by the vision that locally owned businesses can be both a means of economic empowerment and a healthier community. Instead of waiting for retailers across the country to set up stores in their neighborhoods and offer jobs and investments, Mandela helps locals do it themselves.
“The mission is greater than just food justice,” said Ciara Segura, director of programs and policies at Mandela Partners. “It’s about creating a locally owned economy so that the money earned in this community stays in the community.”
The organization also operates the Healthy Retail Network, which consists of 10 small grocery stores and corner market owners, with eight community produce stands in the school, library and seniors center. Since the beginning of the pandemic, produce stands have been replaced by a fully funded CSA program that provides fresh produce to 400 low-income households a week.
Mandela Partners was recently funded by the American Heart Association’s Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund, which invests in resource-poor communities.
Meanwhile, Hatson is driving her new business and is busier than ever. Thanks to Mandela, she is currently contracted to cook 200 meals a week for a local female shelter. Hatson is also planning to open a physical store.
“It feels really great to bless people, and it’s a blessing to do what you like,” she said.
American Heart Association news covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyrighted by American Heart Association, Inc. Owned or owned by, and all rights are reserved.If you have any questions or comments about this story, please email us [email protected]
By Karina Ioffee
American Heart Association News
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