Reclamation of Community Health through Food and Art

Posted on: May 17, 2022San Francisco

Alex stands in the center of the frame, smiling at the camera. His arms are placed on his hips. Behind him is a room filled with a variety of different plants.

Growing up, I’ve heard many medical providers tell patients of color that they have to change their diets, with many of these changes requiring them to shift away from cultural items that are commonly enjoyed towards more Eurocentric diets. Because of this, I wanted to incorporate art into the Food Pharmacy because it seemed like a great way to incorporate community culture into the program, and in which community food and health could be reclaimed.

Originally, I had thought that just having flyers with community art would suffice, but after talking with some of the participants, we realized that combining it with recipes would help achieve this goal even further! This art recipe-project was inspired by the idea of increasing community-based participation and engagement in a way that incorporates the communities’ talents, cultures, and cuisines. We envisioned incorporating art into the food pharmacy to represent cultures through drawings and to reclaim cultural recipes, foods, and health.

To do this, we tried increasing participant collaboration by creating a space where participants voices/opinions can be included into how our program is run. That way, we could actually provide the tools that participants could use to reach their goals without us telling them what they need to do. Through this effort, we were able to connect with two local Mexican-African American artists (visit their websites here and here) who have connections to the Food Pharmacy, as their mother is a participant of the program, and they all share the food that they receive each week from the Food Pharmacy.  

We started talking with the family when the Food Pharmacy participant mentioned that her daughters are artists and have worked on art projects around the city. This led to discussions about wanting to incorporate art into the Food Pharmacy but I was unsure about what the best route would be. Since we also want to increase participation in the form of accepting recipe recommendations that can be shared with the rest of the community, we thought that combining art into the recipes that we pass out would be a great way to start. For this project, we asked that the mother and her daughters create 7 different art pieces and share 7 different familial recipes, with each art piece specifically made to represent each recipe that the mother chooses to share. 

A recipe is detailed in the center of the document. The upper right hand corner contains a sprouting onion. The upper left hand corner is detailed with pepperoni. The bottom left depicts a bottle of olive oil tipped as the oil spills out. The bottom right corner shows a pile of grated cheese as cheese is grated against a cheese grater. Another recipe is detailed in this photo. The borders of the image are decorated, with the upper left and bottom right corners depicting lemons in th shape of a chandlier or lights. The lower left corner depicts a red snapper with salsa being poured over it, and the upper right depicts garlic, tomato, and lemon.A recipe for New York Stylee Chicken Chili - the border of the photo is lined with deepictions of ingredients of the dish, including a roasted chicken, garlic, onion, a bowl of chili, and colorful geometric shapes.

We decided to incorporate art into the Food Pharmacy to mitigate the negative light that non-Eurocentric foods are often painted in: too oily, too fat, too many carbs, looks weird, unhealthy, not enough greens, not enough fruit. And this doesn’t stop here. Since the goals of the Food Pharmacy are to promote making healthy dietary changes and to remain culturally sensitive to the communities we serve, we are hoping that showing these 7 recipes in the Food Pharmacy will help change this narrative and allow for the reclamation of cultural foods. 

About the Author:

Alex Morales

Position Title:  

COVID-19 Responder/ Food Access Coordinator

Where are you from?  

Huntington Park, California 

Why did you decide to join NHC? 

Host Site