The nonprofit Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture (WANDA) is working to achieve nutrition equity in the United States by uplifting the voices of Black women and girls in food.
The organization “is a manifestation of wanting to see what I did not see, which is every Black woman and girl transforming themselves into the food sheroes that we know our communities desperately need,” Tambra Raye Stevenson, CEO and Founder of WANDA tells Food Tank.
By empowering these food sheroes—which Stevenson defines as “every woman from nana to mama to auntie to sister” who are committed to healing and transforming their communities—WANDA strives to overcome injustices in food and agriculture systems.
Stevenson argues that the dominant narrative in the United States has portrayed Black women as “oppressed and suppressed.” But she sees an opportunity to change this. Stevenson recognizes “the power of being the storyteller of Black women in food and uplifting their voices, amplifying their work, and showing that there can be another way in how we see and show up in the food system.”
Recently WANDA introduced the Black Food Census to collect better data on Black foodways in the United States. “Data equals documentation to create the change that we want,” Stevenson tells Food Tank. The survey is designed to answer questions such as “How is Black food showing up in all forms of media and publication? Who are the influencers? And how does that shape the way we look for the resources in our communities?”
The organization hopes the findings will illuminate the diversity of Black foodways and help to make programs targeting food and nutrition security more inclusive.
To advance this mission further, WANDA is also advocating for a food bill of rights, an intersectional policy framework that will take a holistic approach to food and agriculture systems in the country.
“We have been creating these ad hoc, piecemeal, band-aid approaches to policy,” Stevenson tells Food Tank. “Yet if we actually have a unifying framework that informs how we value the food from the place of a collective…then it would be obvious that people should have access to land to grow food, food people should have access to food that is healthy, that speaks to their culture.”
Listen to the full conversation with Tambra Raye Stevenson on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to hear more about the power of food sheroes, why the Food Bill of Rights is “an extension of freedom,” and Stevenson’s recent article that makes the case for the African heritage diet as medicine.
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Photo courtesy of Joshua Sukoff, Unsplash