Food for the Spirit is a non-profit organization committed to racial healing, ecological justice, and equitable food systems. Using the arts and creative facilitation, we cultivate spaces for people to learn from each other and step into leadership roles honoring their unique talents, perspectives, and abilities. Based in the City of Buffalo, Western New York, and the Finger Lakes regions, we engage in training modalities and healing practices from national movement organizations and systems-thinkers to support local communities.
On February 20 and 21, Food for the Spirit co-hosted a two-day, in-person Public Narrative Training in Albany NY for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and other farmers, gardeners, and food systems actors of color in New York State. The purpose of the training was to engage participants in advocacy around the 2023 Farm Bill Campaign, and it was hosted in collaboration with our partners: Black Farmers United NYS, Equity Advocates, and the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust.
More than 20 participants attended the training to learn how to strategically construct a narrative focusing on one or more urgent food issues impacting them and their communities. They developed narratives that merged their personal food story with the story of the communities / organizations they belong to, and by the end of the training, each participant had a narrative they crafted to use when speaking with politicians or other Farm Bill decision-makers.
“I learned how to better narrate my story by being concise and how to ‘draw a picture’ when telling it. Making it short and to the point but drawing in the audience leaves a greater impression.“
“I had not been to a public narrative training, so the entire curriculum was new to me. It helped me think through the best way to approach a personal story that connects to broader groups / communities I’m connected to, and urgent issues that are most pressing at the current moment.”
“I want to bring this to our Buffalo network, and think through how this kind of approach can be used to build solidarity as well as consensus about important initiatives to focus on together.”
“The Public Narrative Training was very informative and supportive of everyone’s needs and accommodations. We left with a wealth of knowledge to take back to our communities and make a change.”
“I really appreciated not just the chance to develop a framework and language to tell my own story, but to hear from others and feel in community with folks with similar values. It makes me feel hopeful to know this network is being created.”
“I really felt like I built a lot of camaraderie with the other Public Narrative Training attendees in a way I have never experienced before at an event or training. It made it so meaningful for me.”
In 2022, Food for the Spirit and members of the Buffalo Food Equity Network (BFEN) embarked on a 6-month candidate search to fulfill the position of Director of the BFEN. In January of 2023, the position was fulfilled by Nnenna Ferguson!
Nnenna Ferguson is a creative, an emerging leader, and Buffalo native with a passion for herbalism and organic farming. She holds a BA in Journalism and French and has professional background in digital media and strategic planning.
In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nnenna created the mobile wellness boutique, Bru Apothecary. Bro Apothecary is an intuitive and communal space for reclaiming wholeness – mind, body, and spirit. Since launching, Nnenna has helped hundreds of folx across the country improve their health and increase their connection to plant medicine.
Nnenna brings her passion for health, healing, and storytelling to this leadership role with the Buffalo Food Equity Network and we are so excited to have her on our team!
In 2022, to engage New Yorkers in shaping the 2023 Farm Bill, Food for the Spirit joined Equity Advocates and Black Farmers United NYS to co-lead a series of of conversations, listening sessions and surveys. We prioritized outreach to and participation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) farmers, producers, & practitioners in NY State and over 300 New Yorkers got involved.
Those New Yorkers shared how the 2023 Farm Bill can better support them in terms of land access, urban agriculture, climate change, community food project funding, nutrition, local and regional food systems, and their comments informed our statewide policy platform. The resulting policy platform represents a collective voice from NYS community food leaders, farmers, gardeners, land stewards, producers, & advocates.
Since 2020, a team of Buffalo Food Equity Network members have led the Western New York (WNY) Food Stories Project to engage community storytellers in sharing their perspectives about food and land issues in Western New York.
Our project centers Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian, and Pacific Islander storytellers to create stories and tools for community transformation and liberation. The first group of storytellers were engaged virtually due to the pandemic, and with support from Nexus Community Partners and the W.I.N. Initiative, a video was produced with highlights from their stories.
This summer, we collected a second group of stories at Buffalo’s 2022 Juneteenth Festival as a participant in the Juneteenth Agricultural Pavilion. Approximately twenty festival attendees shared their food stories at a video booth created in collaboration with the W.I.N. Initiative. Now, we are working to create a new video with this fresh batch of stories.
In the coming months, we are looking forward to working with Buffalo Food Equity Network members to find ways to lift up these stories to facilitate change in the WNY food system. Our efforts are grounded in the belief that radical transformation in systems and structures is necessary for communities most impacted by food systems injustices to thrive.