Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Interview with a Food Systems Revolutionary: Tanya Fields

In New York City, one and a half million people (out of 9 million) are food insecure, meaning they do not have access to healthy, good quality affordable food.

While many of the city’s residents can afford to dine out in expensive restaurants or shop at upscale markets, there are neighbors, many of them children, who go to sleep hungry. Organizations have stepped up to deal with this crisis in food insecurity. One of those is BLK ProjeK in the South Bronx, headed by Tanya Fields.

Tanya is Executive Director of The BLK ProjeK. Inspired by her experiences as a single working mother in a marginalized community Executive Director Tanya Fields created and founded the BLK ProjeK in 2009. Tanya will be both an instructor and speaker at the University of Vermont Food Systems Summit in Burlington, Vermont, in June. UVM interviewed her about the successes and challenges of building a sustainable food system in the biggest city in the US.

Chelsea Green is a sponsor of the UVM Food Systems Summit, a month-long meeting of minds where you can take course, attend lectures, weigh in on roundtable discussions and participate in the Necessary (r)Evolution conference. Find out more about the summit here. University of Vermont: How did you get involved in BLK ProjeK? Tanya Fields: I was born and raised in Harlem, a community that I love, but that I could no longer live in due to gentrification. I moved to the South Bronx several years ago. It was an eye opener. I became much more aware of food insecurity, particularly among children. When my own child became ill, I realized that the quality, quantity and affordability of healthy food was a key determinant of health. I also realized that social activism had a major role to play in the solution. We can complain about a perceived problem, but unless we do something, take action, the problem will persist. BLK ProjeK has two intertwined missions: to make healthy food accessible, and to develop leadership skills in local youth, particularly females. UVM: In a city as big as New York is that an insurmountable task? TF: No. If I thought that way, I would not be able to do my work. We are very small as an organization and it is difficult to get the funding that we need to sustain our work, but we are making changes everyday. Next month, we launch our Mobile Market, which will bring the needed healthy food to the people who need it most in this community. UVM: There are several organizations, some big and some small, that do work similar to yours. How do you differ? TF: Sadly, the organizations that have been around for many years and some newly formed organizations, have more than a million people to serve. That’s important work for all of us. We spend all of our money on food and delivery to the most in need. We don’t spend money on brochures and t-shirts because we just don’t have it to waste. We invest our money in solutions that increase access and create opportunities for people to feed themselves and their families. UVM: What do you see as most important agenda in fixing the broken food system? TF: Leadership. Particularly among the people who know these underserved communities first hand. I grew up seeing the dynamics in my neighborhood, in the schools, in social networks. I understand the issues because I lived them. But that is not enough. We need to develop leadership so that change is achieved though policy, though concrete solutions. A delivery of food to someone hungry is vital. Even more important is being an instrument of change, so that the system of food insecurity does not perpetuate itself.


Recipe: Barbecued Eggplant Stacks with Coyote Mint Sauce and Chèvre

With summer in full swing, many are making good use of their outdoor grills. Tender grass fed steaks or free range chicken are often the go-to options, but the possibilities for a grilled meal are endless. At the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, a summer favorite is Barbecued Eggplant Stacks with Coyote Mint sauce and […] Read More..

Food Lover’s Guide: 25% Off ALL Food & Drink Books

Where our food comes from and how it is grown matters. Having control over our food supply is key to a more resilient and sustainable future. A major part of Chelsea Green’s mission is to inspire you with ideas and practical tips. So whether you want to make the world’s best cheese; find a new […] Read More..

Turning Meat into Money: How to Raise and Sell it Ethically

The consumer demand for grassfed, pasture-raised, and antibiotic-free meats is on the rise, putting farmers and ranchers in a unique position to make a decent living on meat that is produced ethically. But, how exactly do you turn meat into money without resorting to the large-scale industrial techniques of today’s confinement-operations? Look no further than […] Read More..

How to Grow Strawberries Indoors

It’s strawberry shortcake season, which means strawberry harvesting season. But for those of you with no outdoor space for gardens, fear not—you can plant, weed, and harvest all from the comfort of your own home! That’s right: it is possible to grow strawberries indoors, from small spaces. According to R. J. Ruppenthal, author of Fresh […] Read More..

Wild Edibles: 5 Tips for Beginner Foragers

Ever spotted a dandelion growing in your backyard and wondered, can I eat that? According to wild plants expert Katrina Blair, the answer is a resounding yes. And there are plenty of other commonly found weeds that fall into this category as well. In her book The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, Blair introduces readers to […] Read More..