What We Need Now: Food Justice

May 12, 2021

What We Need Now, Season 2, Episode 4: Food Justice


True holistic health is about spiritual depth, endless mental possibilities and the physical exploration of no limits. Together, we can heal!

Join us this minisode as we explore how one Black woman has triumphed over typical challenges of navigating issues with access to diverse food options, afford healthy foods, and their access to food on-the-whole. This month, our host Ish Herod interviews Katy Turner (@_thefakevegan) about food accessibility and food apartheid.

About Katy Turner:

The Fake Vegan (She/Her/Lover of Beyonce (if we are being honest lol)) 

Call to Action:

So maybe veganism isn’t your thing, and that’s perfectly fine! Perhaps challenge yourself to eat less meat, or try shopping at local farmers markets when you can! Being a conscious consumer takes effort and work, but eating with intention is not just good for the planet but for ourselves too! Give it a try 🙂 

Episode Resources/Further Reading:

Food Justice Transcript

ISH: Hey everyone, I’m Ish and welcome to another episode of what we need now. This episode is another minisode…


That’s right, last month in our episode about veganism, we started talking about food inaccessibility and the barriers to healthy foods that many folks, especially those in Black and Brown communities, face on a daily basis. So to bring us a little deeper we have Katy Turner, AKA the fake vegan with us today to talk about food justice more broadly and pretty much how that larger movement is key to the health of our communities. Now let’s get into the episode. 

ISH: So first off, I want to say hey Katie, welcome to the show. How you doing? 

KATY: Hi, how are you? Thank you guys so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. 

ISH: Of course, of course, we’re excited to have you here as well and I know I gave you just a slight introduction, but I want to make sure that you can kind of put people on to like the incredible person you are. I want to hear your own introduction as well. Like I can say anything about…Yeah, she’s amazing. I was like she is a Howard University alum. She’s been doing her own entrepreneur style, with her lime  juices and all the juices that I’ve had to take personally, which is pretty good, but I want to hear from you like who is Katy Turner? Who is the fake vegan? 

KATY: Yeah, so. One, who is Katy Turner? I feel like it’s a totally different podcast, but who is the fake vegan and Katy Turner under that brand? One, the fake vegan is just a wonderful place of resources where you can go and tap into. I am a Wellness coach and nutritionists and specialize in plant based nutrition and I created fake vegan from just my own personal health challenges. As you know, and a lot of my followers know I’m a cancer thriver. I was diagnosed with cancer in my early 20s and then I grew up with really severe allergies and things like


that. So I kind of had my own health challenges growing up. But then I think when cancer came into play– like your doctor says you have cancer and you’re like 22, you’re like, “what are you talking about?” 

ISH: Yeah… 

KATY: And so I after failed determination of trying to heal myself through Westernized medicine alone, I realized that that wasn’t going to help me. And going into my journey, I would say I knew that there were going to be different challenges that I would face as a black woman. But what I didn’t realize in the medical industry, as I kind of moved throughout that journey was really the racial and gender biases that exist in the community and that those biases would help would prevent me from healing, but really helped me kind of navigate through more of a holistic perspective. So it was kind of the Ying to the Yang type thing, but as I turned to like alternative medicine’s and methods like juicing, I was able to heal my body really from the inside out and really kind of connect the dots of what I call the ecosystem of the body. Your connection of your mind body spirit. So that’s really kind of where the fake vegan started. It started as a blog when I got certified and my nutritionist license. I turned it into like a Wellness coaching center. But now I sell juices which is so weird like to say out loud, but I started a premium pressed juice line to better serve my community and I guess the goal of the fake vegan is to really just make sure that everybody has equal access to healthy products and a healthy lifestyle, and my slogan is together we can heal because I think for me it really did take a community to get to that. So that’s a little bit about the fake vegan and me for sure. 

ISH: Wow nice. Well, thank you so much for sharing that. That’s a powerful story


to hear about your journey. Kind of how it led you to this point, which is really, really cool. And there was something that you touched on talking about equal access, which was like a running theme through our last episode and what I want to touch on a little bit about today, I’m just curious to know like how do you define food justice? 

KATY: Yeah, so that’s a really great question. I think for me, food justice is best defined by kind of looking at it in reverse right? So like, what do you consider food injustice to be? So food injustice to me is a lack of access to holistic, nourishing options. And there’s like three ways I kind of look at it. One is through access, right? So, having a community grocery store or just healthy options is essential to being able to thrive. So if you think about it, there’s about 5,000,000– over 5,000,000 Americans that live in rural areas or farm areas. And while they grow their crops right, but that’s their bread and butter, they can’t actually eat that their nearest grocery store is about 10 miles away, so you technically need reliable transportation to get to that grocery store, and hopefully that grocery store has helped– healthy options so that that idea of really creating access to just healthy options and healthy food. And then two, I look at it in like a food insecurity way, so providing grocery stores that have subpar offerings are not really a solution, right? So it’s not really solving the solution to the insecurity piece either. And then three, kind of the price control that the Wellness market has. Providing just healthy options that are affordable for all addresses that that need for solving. The issue of just price control. So how do we create all of those three things


that are breaking down the industry and breaking down those barriers of injustice and kind of over glossing the socioeconomic piece of it? You have to really kind of look at it in various buckets, but I guess injustice in of itself is just what they call food apartheid, which essentially addresses the racial and socioeconomic barriers that are in the food industry. And I remember living in Harlem for… I was there for about five years. I lived in New York City for eight years, right? And I was working at the time in corporate retail, so I was getting paid really good. Good amount of money and I was living in Harlem and I remember that there was, when I first moved to Harlem, there was grocery stores, plenty of grocery stores, but then this massive gentrification started to happen about three years of me living there. And I saw that once the Whole Foods came to 125th St, and the Starbucks came, then there was this kind of shift in the food just offerings in Harlem, New York, and you’re in this historically black community where there were plenty of grocery stores. There was great, you know, local options, a lot of mom and pop stores and things like that. But in terms of getting those healthier holistic options, it wasn’t accessible. So what I would do is I would take my–my bag to work. What I would carry my groceries in. Go and I worked in Midtown. Go to the nearest Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods to get the holistic items that I could not access in Harlem and then take them back home after I finish my shopping after work. And like I said, I was making a decent amount of money. But what if you’re not that person right? What if you don’t identify with that? What if we don’t work at Midtown


and you only work Uptown then you have to go out of your way to come downtown. What if you don’t have the transportation to do that? And I was taking two, at the time, to give perspective. I was taking two modes of transportation– transportation to get to that Whole Foods, so I would took a train and then I took a bus and then I had to do the reverse right? Take the bus back to the train, take the train back to Uptown. But if you are somebody in that community where you don’t have access to these means, then you have to really kind of figure it out for yourselves, Anne. It’s wild to think about if you ever been to New York. Manhattan is a very small island so literally miles away are healthy options. But you get to the store. You might not be able to afford it, but even getting to the store he might not be able to afford it. And so putting the Whole Foods in Harlem. Was great, but. It also still didn’t address, right one of the three points I was talking about, which was pipe– price control. It then limits you from being able to give access equal access to literally all socioeconomic types, and so how do we solve that problem becomes a question of that, so that’s kind of my experience with food and injustice and food justice. 

ISH: Oh definitely, definitely thank you for sharing that. That is definitely very interesting. You mentioned the Whole Foods 125th and I was like wait, what? Feel like it’s been awhile since I’ve been up there in Harlem, but that is definitely new. 

KATY: It is wild. It is really wild. 

ISH: For the listeners, why is food justice so important in general, and  like why is it important to you specifically too? 

KATY:Yeah, so I think food justice in general is very important because it affects everyone. If you think of it, food is technically really culture, right? Food is your family. Food is part of your community. It’s how people communicate in some ways.


So being able to enjoy and prepare like healthy options allows you to connect to other people and other humans and in a very esoteric way, right? But it also helps you just to live right. It helps you to thrive. So it’s really important to myself in my community. Because I identify closely with the black community in all facets of what that looks like. Before, like if you think about this like before COVID-19, I was reading an article and the 37 million people, including eleven million children lived in food insecure households. 

ISH: OK, so you dropped some gems in that last answer as well, and I want to actually ask the question that goes back to something you mentioned in your earlier answer about inaccessibility and food access. What does equitable access to food look like to you? 

KATY: Yeah, so I think a lot of it, one has to do with literally just getting to the store. I think people don’t really think about the just nuances that might even entail. So if you think about it, like you live in an urban environment like Washington DC, right? You have to get on a train for most times to possibly get to your grocery store or take a local bus or walk. But if you do all of those modes of transportation, do you have somebody who can help you carry your groceries back home? And a lot of us like we kind of operate, especially millennials from the place like, oh, you just get a Uber. Then you have to have an Uber right? And then lay on top of that Covid. So now it’s like. You’re not even thinking about just being able to get to the grocery store, you’re thinking about how– how can I be safe while doing it, and so these are just different layers that I think people don’t really kind of take into consideration. And then again, like if you think about lack of education in terms of what will help your body thrive. I work a lot of times with clients who..not,


not like…pretty well off clients, but had no idea that if you aren’t drinking enough water, friend. Your headaches will increase, so your migraines is actually not a migraine problem. It’ss a lack of drinking water problem like it, but it seems so basic, but a lot of people don’t know that, right? So I think we have to start tapping into our own resources, especially in marginalized and black communities to allow for that education piece to be brought up to seem. So I think a lot of times I tell my clients to really tap into resources like black owned farms and urban community gardens. That can help transform the food justice system and by just taking those steps of seeking out various resources, you’re not only learning about what you should and shouldn’t eat and how to really kind of allow for yourself to thrive, but then you’re also empowering yourself, right? So there is a farm in Virginia called the Sylvana Farm, and it’s a black owned and run farm and they have days where you can come in and really learn how to grow crops. Well, that’s actually empowering yourself, because then you can take that back to your own home and start your own little garden in your backyard. And this has been like a trend on social media. You know people been locked in the house over the past year, but everybody started like an at Home Garden right? And it wasn’t me, but my sister definitely did. I’m not that garden girl, but it was really–and powerful to See such amazing things come out of the black community specifically from just the pandemic itself. Like being able to take back that power that was stripped from us decades and centuries ago to be able to just feed yourself is actually really powerful. And you talk about reversing, you know, weight, that might be carried from generations before– people call about generational curses and generational all these things, but I like to say you’re just reversing the DNA. You’re changing


and shifting your DNA of how you function. And so understanding where your food comes from and not only just being able to know that knowledge, but also being able to have that power to really kind of create your own garden and create your own your own life source is really, really powerful. So these are things to kind of think about when we talk about just access to food and just in general what it means to really kind of empower yourself in the black community specifically ’cause that’s the community that I work closely with. So yeah, that’s kind of what I think about. 

ISH: Well that’s really cool and it’s funny that you did mention that ’cause I didn’t see that on social media people starting their own gardens and stuff like that and I really like the empowerment aspect of it too. I’m also in the same boat. Not me. I haven’t gotten to that part yet. I was like I need to take some more steps to get there, but that is really cool. 

KATY: For sure. Me too.

ISH: And I–ooh, I did want to check in on something else, and so there was a term used early in the answer that I was like, oh I want to hear more about this when you’re talking about food Apartheid earlier a bit.  For the audience, can you tell a little bit about just what is food apartheid? 

KATY: Yeah so I always rely on the activist. Her name is dark–I think. Dara Cooper, I believe is her name and she defines it as a systematic destruction of black self determination to control one’s food, hyper sensation of destruction of food processes and predominantly marketing and the blatantly discriminatory acts of lack of food. So that’s a whole mouthful. But essentially what you think about you kind of have to like dig back to just the history of just the forming of this country. Slavery happened, right? But then after slavery there was. Stripped


economy right. There was a strip of access for black people. They just basically had nothing. And so you have to create that for yourselves. And when you did, sometimes your farms were burned down because you were black and when you moved to the city, sometimes you weren’t allowed in the grocery store and so you think about that like construct first of all, but then kind of break it down to those trickles of today. 

ISH: So, Katy, what should we make sure every single one of our listeners knows? When this episode is over, what do you want them to take back from this? 

KATY: So I think I was diagnosed over eight years ago and I think I truly understand what it means to live healthy. And for me true holistic health and honestly, food justice is about spiritual depth, endless mental possibilities and physical exploration of no limits. And I think I really appreciate the idea that it will take a tribe for us to heal, so I really stick with the idea that together we can heal, but really understanding that health is holistic in the sense that you can’t overfeed one without supporting the other. So if you have. If you have a really strong spiritual practice but don’t have healthy mental health practices, then you won’t really be healthy, and vice versa. So I think it really takes your ecosystem thriving so your mind, body, spirit connection and really kind of understanding what that means. That’s where kind of the change will start. First is just kind of evaluating that and then second, educate yourself. Really kind of take the time to dig into the books and and listen to the podcasts that can help you further understand what is it really means


to have food justice in America and then across the globe too. You gotta think about you, know how our food system is different than other food systems across the world. I think. When we talk about just being able to tap into different resources, be sure to look out for just ways you can give back to your community in a meaningful way. And that’s not always just providing the food to the food pantry. Sometimes that’s literally helping serve the meal because I think there’s an energy exchange that happens when you feed other people. Like I said earlier, food is culture, and in order for us to really be in a healthy environment and and our our communities thrive, is we really have to take into consideration what does it mean to be…um…just really holistic, healthy for every individual, and that looks different based off your race, your… how you identify sexually, your socioeconomic background, really, we’re all human at the end of the day, so together we surely can heal. 

ISH: Alright, well thank you for dropping those gems too and that was great to hear. I’m sure that people can definitely take a lot back. One thing that we ask, all of our guests that do come on the podcast is the same question. Katy, with everything you see in going around


What do we need now? I think we have to provide space for healing to occur because obviously there has been a lot of damage not only to the black community but communities of color. And it shouldn’t take huge drastic, moments in our communities and really lives to be lost for us, to empathize, understand, and stand with each other. I think that we as humans and and people who really want to see our communities thrive, we have to not only be the change that we want to see, but we also have to really create a space where we can go through every single step of healing. And when I think of healing, I always think of when you get a cut. I use this analogy all the time. So you get a cut and your skin is broken. It takes several days for your, your blood to actually clot. And that blood clot might cause pussing and disgusting looking things, right? It’s not always pretty, and I think people who aren’t part of communities that are going through things– so allies and supporters of this can really take away of…There will be times where healing is not pretty. Healing is not always calm. Sometimes it is drastic. Sometimes it is painful. And


You just have to really empathize with those communities and reach out and really help them heal through whatever it is that they’re going through, whether that is a food insecurity or food justice or just honestly being a black in America, it’s a tough time and I think if you really want to be allies of various communities, you have to really kind of understand that healing is not not pretty all the time, but understand that healing is a process and that we will get through it. And if you really want to make sure that you support food justoce and honestly, just justice in general, you have to really kind of understand the history. So I know education is like a big thing, but like also, just talk to your friends that– that go through that. And if you don’t have any friends, social media is a thing. You know, reach out and see and see how you can better yourself and then better your community. 

ISH: Nice. Well, that’s powerful. Thank you. Thank you for sharing that for sure. So we really, really appreciate having you on the podcast on this has been phenomenal. Katie Turner, AKA the fake vegan. You can follow her on the socials @_the fake vegan. But like I said again, it was a pleasure to have you on and definitely appreciated the words you had. 

Thanks again for listening to our minisode.


About food justice with our guest Katy Turner. Really appreciated you all listening, so make sure to be on the lookout as we are going to be bringing in another episode coming soon and check us out on SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Music, everywhere you get your playlists. That’s where we are. So the next episode we have will be about Juneteenth. Going to explore a little bit about the history and what that means to us as black people, so make sure to stay tuned and we love you. See you later.



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