Food System Work: The First Step in Reclaiming Freedom of the Body and the Mind

Part of the Carolina Creative Works staff blog series

Nallah Muhammad, a recent NC A&T State University graduate and a Guilford County resident, works in multiple roles in the food system in Greensboro and serves as an apprentice to the Piedmont Triad Regional Food System Project. She can be reached at community@carolinacreators.com

What’s one thing we wouldn’t know about you, Nallah?

People would never guess that I act, sing, and dance. I have not made much room for it lately given that everything I do has to do with urban farming, but performing arts is a HUGE part of my identity. I am actually still a member of an african dance company called The E Gwynn Dance Company. We study Dunham technique, carribean, and african styled dancing. 

Why are you interested in working to improve the food system? 

If we know nothing else, we know that we must eat. However, eating means so much more than the passive act of placing food in one’s mouth. The consumption of and access to fresh vegetation is the first step in reclaiming freedom of the body and the mind. 

Unfortunately, the system in which is supposed to help provide equal access to this  nourishment has been devastatingly compromised. The 12-county assessment that is being conducted by Piedmont Triad Regional Food Council, in partnership with Carolina Creative Works, is out with a mission to gather quantitative as well as qualitative data regarding the

economic, social, and systematic flaws and successes within the food system for the 12 counties in the Triad. 

I got involved in food system work because I believe that food access is at the core of so many other systematic issues. Enabling my community to be self sufficient and to have greater accessibility to a resource that should be a simple human right- is a part of my responsibility as a healthy, privileged, and educated human being. 

What makes me upset about the food system in my community is that everyone is not benefiting from the resources that are available and there are not nearly as many programs developed as needed to teach people the benefits of and how to milk all that they can out of the resources put in place to help them. I want to fix this because there is no reason for children to have long-term unequal opportunities because of something they could not control, like malnourishment. 

But, my favorite thing about the Triad food system and its work is the passion and willingness of everyone involved. I have not talked to one person who has not been over the moon when presented with the opportunity to share information or a resource that will help in the success of this assessment. It is obvious that everyone realizes that filling the gaps in our system is going to take an immense amount of collective hard work that must include the voice of those uncommonly heard. 

What’s your favorite part of working on this project? 

As a Guilford County resident working in the urban farming sector, it has been an honor being a part of this project because I am able to see first hand the effort in making sure that all voices are heard and that equity is not just a show word. I have been able to connect with individuals with like minds from all angles of the food supply chain and get their honest opinions on where we lie as a community on improving the food system as we know it. This project has given me confidence to lead as a young agriculturalist, but even more so – it has provided me with an abundance of tactics for how I can approach mitigating the gaps that exist within my own community.

What do you want to do after this? 

My goal  for future work in the food system is to dive into distribution in any way that I can. I want to partner with any organization actively getting fresh fruits and vegetables out in underprivileged communities. Furthermore, I’d like to utilize my own organization, Afro Agriculture, to create programming to help community members unify and develop their own food sources aside from those developed in society.