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March 2021

Monthly Vine Update: Food as Story

The Healthy Living vine began this past month with a very specific and intentional focus on our 3 Rs: a respect for each others' food routines and traditions, a sense of responsibility to celebrate and preserve them (even if we also question them), and, in an examination of our continent's history with food, a story of resilience in the face of colonization and slavery.

As Dominic explains below in his "Last Word," you can't talk about food without talking about stories. Therefore, Kelli and Mikaela invited poet Jasmine Babineaux to launch a week of creative writing workshops in preparation for a Saturday morning story extravaganza.

The Teens considered many questions as they crafted their poetry and prose:

What was the best food experience you ever had?

What was prepared?



By whom?

With whom?

What emotions were evoked?

What food traditions do you have--with your family, friends, culture?

If you could create a food tradition for your family, what would it be--and why?

If you could have your dream meal, what it would be--and why?

How are you “what you eat”? How are you not “what you eat”?

This final question inspired the name of Saturday's storytelling, "You Are (Not) What You Eat." Jasmine returned to enjoy the fruits of her workshop, with many Teens reading their work with confidence and praising each other with snaps and chat box props. TGG Staff read published or original poetry and were joined by four other guest poets!

The personal stories surrounding food were followed by a "big picture" historical story of food on this continent, particularly colonization and ways to decolonize one's diet and slavery and how it affected Black diets and food culture in general. It's pretty heavy stuff, for sure, but Kelli and Mikaela made it very engaging and relevant. It's sometimes necessary to know the past before diving into the present.

Other Updates!

  • Northside Teens have begun their greenhouse training in small groups at Weber's Greenhouse.

  • All the Teens enjoyed a virtual lesson in maple tree tapping by Kacey Tait from Riveredge Nature Center.

  • And as a bridge between Roots of Success and Healthy Living, Teens participated in a week-long Secure Futures financial literacy training: Money Sense Flex and Money Path. The Money Sense Flex program introduced them to financial basics like checking and savings, budgeting, and credit. The Money Path program helped them explore their college, career, and savings goals.

Teens of the Month & Most Improved Teens

NS Teen of the Month was awarded to Ajari Bailey (left) for his willingness to speak up & add his perspectives to the discussion.

NS most improved Teen was awarded to Yeraudis Sanchez (below) for her ability to open up. Yeraudis has opened up to friends in chat and in discussion.

SS Teen of the month was awarded to Tylon Jones (left) for his excellent participation in all the sessions and accomplishing all his tasks on time.

SS most improved Teen was awarded to Lizzy Pantoga-Montoto (below) for her great participation and also for her awesome interaction with the Teens.


by Dominic Inouye

Food can tell people who we are, where we come from, how we live or want to live, what we believe or don’t believe. Who we have been and who we will become.

Arroz con gandules. Memphis barbecue. Ackee and saltfish. Sauerbraten and spaetzle. Chilaquiles, coq au vin, gefilte fish, gindara kasuzuke. Piri piri and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Dining at the Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athene with 10,000 crystal pendants overhead or getting a burger at McDonald’s.

Carnivore, vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, beegan, flexitarian. Not eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Fasting until iftar during Ramadan.

Paleo. Low-carb. Atkins. The Zone.

Eating or not eating to avoid high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke, diabetes.

Food deserts and food apartheid. Colonized foods and decolonizing our diets. Slavery changing the way Southern Americans ate.

The foods we consume, make, and don’t make tell stories. Food is our family and relationships, our culture and class, as well as our individual preferences, idiosyncrasies, and insecurities. We even make assumptions (internal stories, if you will) about other people based on what they eat or not, or what we think they eat.

Food is emotional, too. We eat in times of joy and sorrow, stress and anger. And it triggers memories--so many memories.

So many stories. If you haven’t guessed it already, my word for March is STORY.

In March, TGG began exploring a story about food that will continue in April with a deep dive (or dig?) into the industrial food complex, nutrition and its effects on the mind, and more. The Teens will also begin 8 weeks of culinary training, greenhouse prep, and research into the neighborhoods in which they'll be gardening this summer.

Finally, soon we'll be gathering the food stories that the Teens, Staff, and guest poets shared during March’s poetry event, so stay tuned.

Until then: What food stories do you have? Let us know below.

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