Real Food Reads: A Black History Month Compilation

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not lead single-issue lives.” – Audre Lorde 

By Tiffani Patton 

One of the most satisfying aspects of being part of the movement for a just and nourishing food system is getting to work on such a wide range of issues:  racial justice, land rights, income inequality, environmental justice, and labor rights, just to name a few. The fight for a just food system must be “intersectional” because food intersects with so many aspects of our identities and our society. And while that may seem overwhelming, it is actually an exciting leverage point. Food is something we all have in common: it is a powerful way to open the door to conversations (and action) around many other issues. 

At Real Food Media, we’ve had the pleasure of speaking and working with some brilliant people who are using their platform to drop knowledge, build community, and spark change. This Black History Month, we are showcasing a few of our favorite Real Food Reads authors who are working at the intersection of food, health, sustainability, and Black identity. These authors, farmers, cooks, and activists dig into the history of Black people’s relationship with food and with the land—and inspire the creation of new ways of being in the world that value Black culture, bodies, and communities.

What’s on your Black History Month reading list?

“To farm while Black is an act of defiance against white supremacy and a means to honor the agricultural ingenuity of our ancestors.” 

Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land by Leah Penniman 

Farming While Black is an empowering reclamation of agricultural history: no-till farming, crop-rotation, terrace farming—all started by Africans, yet rarely advertised as such. Equal parts practical guide (applicable to a windowsill planter or a farm), decolonized history book, and love letter to the land: the lessons from Farming While Black are a powerful tool in reconnecting with history, healing ancestral trauma, and finding liberation through, and on, the land. 

Listen to the Real Food Reads episode with Leah Penniman.

“Black farmers acted, not only to improve their own and their communities’ circumstances, but to advance a broader political and activist agenda to challenge racially oppressive rural social structures.”

Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement by Monica M. White 

Dr. Monica White’s award-winning research shows how Black people in America used food as a strategy to build power at the intersection of issues from the mid-Atlantic crossing to present-day urban farms in Detroit. The perfect academic cousin to Farming While Black, Freedom Farmers also unveils some little known African-American agricultural history, like that CSAs, cooperatives, and the start of “farm-to-table” dinners were all started and popularized by African-American farmers.

Listen to the Real Food Reads episode with Monica White. 

“How do we as Black queer people celebrate ourselves and love ourselves? I am working to create spaces where we can champion that message and where we can see ourselves in other people—not be weaponized or demonized for who we are.”

Son of a Southern Chef: Cook With Soul  by Lazarus Lynch 

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone as fearless as Lazarus Lynch. His passion for cooking came from his father, the Southern Chef, and every dish in his cookbook merges familial legacy with his own creative spark. The pages are filled with some of the most eye-catching and funkiest (in a good way!) food photography you’re ever likely to see, and affirmations are generously sprinkled throughout: Lazarus brings his whole self into his work. 

Listen to the Real Food Reads episode with Lazarus Lynch. 

“For me, recipe creation is a praxis where I honor and bring to life the teachings, traditional knowledge, and hospitality of my blood and spiritual ancestors by making food.” 

Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by Bryant Terry

Long-time Real Food Media friend Bryant Terry is a triple threat: chef, activist, and author. (And did we forget to mention James Beard Leadership Awardee?) His latest book confirms his status as vegan-food royalty. This beautiful book is organized by ingredient and each recipe is accompanied by a song so you can get your groove on. Like the other authors in our Black History Month reading list, Bryant Terry uses food as a tool to decenter whiteness. One of his aims is to challenge the myth of “ethnic” cooking that exoticizes non-white food traditions. For vegans and omnivores alike, these recipes (and this ethos) are sure to inspire you. 

Podcast coming soon!

“Democracy is about people having a voice, having a say in society.” 

Beginning to End Hunger: Food and the Environment in Belo Horizonte, Brazil by M. Jahi Chappell 

Since 1993, the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, has significantly decreased rates of infant mortality, malnutrition, diabetes-related hospitalizations. That’s because people were given a voice in shaping how their local food system works in one of the world’s first-ever Food Policy Councils. Diet-related diseases aren’t unique to Brazil—in the US, these diseases disproportionately impact Black (and Latinx and Indigenous) people. And, communities of color are coming together to take a stand and reclaim their health, from taking on Big Soda to organizing for healthier corner stores to farming the land. Beginning to End Hunger is an inspiring example of what can happen when marginalized communities take control of their local food systems. 

Listen to the Real Food Reads episode with M. Jahi Chappel. 

The Big Letdown: How Medicine, Big Business, and Feminism Undermine Breastfeeding by Kimberly Seals Allers 

In The Big Letdown, Kimberly Seals Allers shows how corporate interests influence  hospitals’ (and physicians’) support for breastfeeding—and actually undermine women’s decision to breastfeed. Part exposé of the infant-formula industry, part rallying-cry for breastfeeding mothers, The Big Letdown exposes corporate spin and the racialized structural barriers that prevent mothers and infants from making healthy choices.   

Listen to the Real Food Reads episode with Kimberly Seals Allers. 

Listened to all of the episodes and are hungry for more? We’ve got you covered: here are some additional ways you can deepen your learning, connect to the issues, and organize for change. 

Build Healthier Communities  


Dig in to Land and Agriculture Issues


Learn More About Reproductive Justice

  • Deepen your learning with GroundSwell Fund  
  • Explore “Irth”, Birth Without Bias, a social change app founded by Kimberly Seals Allers that filters hospitals and physicians for bias in the care that women receive.
  • Find out about BabyZoos, the latest venture from Tunde Wey that seeks to address infant mortality disparity in Kalamazoo, Michigan. 


Light Up Your Taste Buds

  • Stay connected to Bryant Terry’s work as Chef-in-Residence of the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco, CA (pro tip: these are my favorite events for learning, connecting, and getting my soul stirred). 
  • Check out some of Bryant’s other books: Afro-Vegan and Grub: Ideas for an Organic Kitchen (co-authored by our own Anna Lappé). 
  • Get to know the Son of a Southern Chef: check out Lazarus’ YouTube Channel and make sure to follow him on social media.

And, of course, subscribe to Real Food Reads, our monthly book club and podcast. 

Header image: Audre Lorde reading at the International Feminist Book Fair in London, 1984. Photo by Dagmar Schultz.