BRIDGING THE RACIAL HEALTH GAP AND THE RACIAL WEALTH GAP
SouthEats mission is to radically shift the way we think about food and ownership East of the River in Washington, DC by improving access to healthy, affordable prepared meals and introducing shared ownership into the local food ecosystem.
In 2016 - through serendipity - Joelle Robinson, Jennifer Bryant and Xavier Brown learned about a new public health fellowship program. The three East of the River neighbors decided to apply for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leaders program together as a team. After a competitive selection process, they were one of 40 teams from across the United States selected for the inaugural cohort. In 2018, they decided to pilot a food cooperative in Southeast, DC and welcomed Winford Jones to the team as the fourth worker-owner and in 2022 the team expanded again to include Trenisha James and Audrey Hailes. Our team has been supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, CommonHealth Action, the National Collaborative for Health Equity and Nourish DC in the development and implementation of a transformative, hyper-local public health project at the intersections of urban agriculture, food policy and cooperative economics.
In the fall of 2019 we launched SouthEats, a healthy meal service for residents East of the River in Washington, DC. SouthEats mission is to radically shift the way we think about food and ownership. In addition to eliminating food deserts and increasing food access, we aim to build an equitable local food ecosystem cooperatively-owned by low-income DC residents.
Xavier Brown is a native of Washington, DC and a graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Master of The Science University of Vermont. Xavier is a alumni of the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leaders Program. Xavier operates at the boundaries of urban agriculture, environmental sustainability, and African Diasporic culture. His work intertwines sustainability with the issues and social justice issues that affect stressed communities from gun violence to mass incarceration to climate change. The guiding question is how the wisdom of nature and different ways of knowing can be used to dismantle these problems Xavier views nature as a tool that can uplift and heal stressed communities. By studying the practices of indigenous people and going back to ancestral knowledge, Xavier is a part of a new sustainability movement that is healing the people and the land by reconnecting our scared relationship to the earth.
During the day, Jennifer leads the Employee Ownership Initiative at the Washington Area Community Investment Fund (Wacif). In this role, she supports the preservation of legacy businesses in Black communities by converting them to worker ownership. She’s an active member of the DC Cooperative Stakeholders group which provides training and shapes policy to (re)build the city’s cooperative economy. Jennifer is an alum of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leaders Program and currently a community fellow for the Shared Equity in Economic Democracy (SEED) Fellowship. Jennifer believes in the power of shared ownership to build communal wealth and power in Black communities. Jennifer is a resident of the Great Ward 7 in Southeast DC and a proud graduate of Howard University. She also holds a master's degree from St. John's University.
Winford Jones II is a native of Washington, DC and a graduate of DC Central Kitchen. He has strived to cook excellent food for the many establishments he has worked for. He also, has worked for many non-profit organizations that helped him learn how to used his cooking background to give back to the community that gave him so much. He now thrives to use his platform to link his knowledge of healthy cooking and eating to the community.
Joelle Robinson grew up in Suitland, MD and is a current Washington DC Ward 7. For the past ten years Joelle has been working in public health and for eight years has worked in community with black farmers and organizers on food sovereignty, food security, and food justice issues in the DC area. She is a Public Health Professional, Civic Engager, Collaborative Builder, focusing on bridging government and community experience by implementing community participatory action research to directly inform the development and transformation of policies. Joelle is driven by a passion for promoting health and wellness, community service, and social equity, diversity and inclusion. Her mission is to push for conditions that allow herself and her community to live fearlessly and free, limited only by the extent of our imaginations. Through recent participation in the Culture of Health Leaders program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Joelle co-developed SouthEats a cooperatively owned healthy meal-delivery business currently being piloted in DC. Joelle currently serves on the DC Food Policy Council and is pursuing a doctoral degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
SouthEats is a worker-owned cooperative that provides healthy, affordable, and culturally relevant meals. The geographic focus area for our delivery service will be neighborhoods in the District of Columbia Wards 7 and 8. We want our cooperatively owned social enterprise to provide quality living wage jobs for East of the River residents, allowing them to enter into different parts of the food system (farming, catering, admin, delivery, procurement etc.). This provides an opportunity for entry to a variety of careers. The minimum wage in DC is $15, and the living wage is $17. We intend to pay everyone a living wage, and provide opportunities for equal distribution of any profits based on collectively agreed upon terms. Through this process we hope to uplift alternative business models through solidarity and transparency.Our model is designed in a way that allows similar cooperative to take and assets based approach so that they can evaluate the food landscape in their area.