Food Warrior Challenge


In celebration of unique collaboration, personal friends and Organizational Partners, Kelly Carlisle of Acta Non Verba Urban Youth FarmEsperanza Pallana of Oakland Food Policy Council and Sabrina Wu of HOPE Collaborative make ‪#‎FoodJusticeMovement‬ are challenging the notion of competitive fundraising that is endemic to the nonprofit industrial complex by engaging in ridiculous feats of collaborative fundraising.
We have joined forces to bring you The Food Warrior Challenge!
The way it works: You have until December 10th 2015 to challenge one or all of the Directors (Esperanza Pallana, Kelly Carlisle, or Sabrina Wu) in a feat of physical strength, stamina, agility…or goofiness. You pledge for your challenge. That’s right. Go to the site, click the “donate” button and under “purpose”, write the feat you challenge one or all of us to and pledge an amount to see us accomplish it!
Directions: Go to the website and click on the “donate” button, state your challenge in the “purpose” box and pledge.
Examples of challenges have been: $15/mile for Esperanza to run a half marathon; $25 for Sabrina to video herself whaling in HOPE’s Healthy Corner Stores; and $25 for Kelly to write to First Lady Michelle Obama and invite her to Acta Non Verba.
We are ready. Let the games begin!
You can also follow our activity on Facebook, instagram (@foodwarriorsoakland) and Twitter (use #foodwarriorchallenge)!
We will hold a finale gathering on December 12th 2015. Details to follow.

Radical Notions of Love, Culture and Food


At Oakland Food Policy Council we see changing the narrative of our food culture as a crucial step to changing the practices and policies that drive a broken food system. As one local artist puts it “Write back or get written out!!” We need to tell our own story so the truth of who we are is represented and our knowledge base and cultural tools can be accurately reflected in our systems and policies.
For us…
Food is life
Food is medicine
Food is culture
Food is a political choice that affects our spirits, minds, bodies, community and environment

For that reason, we were honored and humbled to have hosted the launch of Decolonize Your DietLuz and Catriona are radical rethinkers showing us how food is a political choice that can be used to “reclaim our vitality as a people,” and “dismantle colonial systems of power.” Their book brings us recipes to sustain revolutionary love that extend beyond food to our cultures and each other. The OFPC director has been an avid fan of their Facebook page since it started. We see how their work creates a vibrant dialogue about taking back our power in food choice. 
We featured a wonderful line up of speakers, artists, chefs, educators and culture keepers and had near to 270 attendees. Speaking kicked off with the political satirist and food writer, Gustavo Arellano. He spoke about authenticity as it relates to Mexican food. A lot of people think of sour cream and flour tortillas as real Mexican food, but they were bought with the Spanish conquistadors. Arellano said, spoke on our need to trace the history of our food and embody that in the food we grow, prepare and eat. 


Gustavo was followed by the powerful speaker and chef, Bryant Terry. Bryant is able to use a rich assortment of culture and entertainment from references to the KRS-One’s anthem “Beef” to the history of the Black Panthers and a deep knowledge of the foods of the African Diaspora. He talks about having a sense of pride and ownership over our food practices. He said “Eating healthfully is a radical act….It’s up to us.”

The launch celebration was in the context of Dia de Los Muertos, a two day ceremony in Mexican culture to commune with, reunite and honor our beloved ancestors, family and friends. The book is a tribute to ancestral knowledge and an offering in itself for generations to come. 


When the authors spoke they wove together the story of their lives together, healing through severe illness and how they rooted their lives in reinvigorating indigenous knowledge of food to heal. In fact, they spoke of how each meal is an opportunity for healing, not just our bodies but our minds, spirits, families, communities and our environment. Their ability to capture the story from the personal to the political is what makes their cookbook Decolonize Your Diet so special…well that and the accessible and very delicious recipes! 

Food provided were based on recipes from the cookbook and prepared by the traveling restaurant, The People’s Kitchen. The menu included Vampiro Slaw, Pumpkin Pipián Empanadas, Tamalitos de Colores and sweet Agua de Manzana. The chefs and artists of People’s Kitchen had installed altars in honor of the food rebels, keepers and laborers of the past, present and future. Food was served from the altars. Music was performed by Dia Pa’Son a musical group formed by Maria de la Rosa an Oakland based Maestra of the Mexican traditional style called Son Jarocho. It was an inspiring and deeply meaningful gathering that created a seamless flow of the spiritual, historical, political, health, social, and musical.

Bay Area Professors Write ‘Decolonial’ Mexican Cookbook to Reclaim the Traditional Foods of Their Ancestors

By Luke Tsai, What The Fork, East Bay Express

Photo of authors by Miki Vargas

Photo of authors by Miki Vargas

On Sunday afternoon, during Día de los Muertos, the Impact Hub event space in Uptown Oakland was packed to the brim with social justice activists and Slow Food types who had gathered to celebrate Decolonize Your Diet, a new Mexican-American cookbook by two Oakland-based professors. Organized by the Oakland Food Policy Council, the event had a vibe more akin to a religious revival meeting, or perhaps a call to revolution, than your typical prim-and-proper book launch.

Tracey Kusiewicz/Decolonize Your Diet The requesón de semilla de calabaza is the lime-green dip to the left.

Calpulli Coatlicue, an Aztec spiritual dance group, started the meeting with a prayer in the form of thumping drums. Food activist Bryant Terry quoted the opening lines of “Beef,” hip-hop legend KRS-One’s anthem against industrial meat. And Gustavo Arellano, the Orange County-based Mexican food expert, argued that the only truly “authentic,” precolonial Mexican cuisine was the mostly plant-based fare that is the subject of Decolonize Your Diet.For authors and life partners Luz Calvo and Catriona Esquibel, the cookbook is the culmination of years of research and conversation. The genesis of the project was Calvo’s breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery in 2006, which led the couple to reexamine their relationship to food — and how their diet, and their people’s collective health, had been impacted by Mexico’s five-hundred-year legacy of colonization, from the arrival of the Spanish to the devastating effects that the so-called Standard American Diet has had on Mexican Americans in the United States. They concluded that the healthiest way to eat would be to go back to the traditional foods of their Mesoamerican ancestors, eschewing white flour, refined sugar, and the deep-fried, cheese-laden fare that many Americans associate with Mexican cuisine.

So, they started a small urban farm at their home in the Fruitvale district and began preparing traditional recipes using corn, squash, beans, and wild herbs. The project eventually grew into a course (“Decolonize Your Diet: Food Justice in Communities of Color”) that Calvo teaches at Cal State East Bay, a Facebook group with more than 14,000 followers, and, now, a cookbook.

In an interview, Esquibel said that although the book keeps a tight focus on ancestral Mesoamerican cuisine, she and Calvo see themselves as part of a broader conversation — one that includes Terry’s efforts to reclaim the healthy, vegetable-centric roots of soul food, for instance. And while Decolonize Your Diet only contains plant-based recipes (because Calvo and Esquibel are both vegetarians), the authors acknowledged that for some people, eating a certain amount of meat might be an essential part of their cultural heritage. They acknowledged, too, that there might be positive outcomes from different food cultures coming into contact with each other. “It’s not like we’re trying to stop things in time and go back to some mythical past,” Calvo said.

But she added that it’s good to approach such changes with a critical lens: Was a new ingredient imposed on a culture, or was it chosen freely? Was it an ingredient that brought health or one that brought sickness and death?

Perhaps the biggest fear with a cookbook that urges readers to return to a simpler, more wholesome way of eating is that the food won’t be very good — that, in this case specifically, what you’d end up with is a bland cuisine made up mostly of nuts and seeds. I can’t speak for the entirety ofDecolonize Your Diet, but I did try a few bites of the sample dishes that were on offer at the book launch and had been prepared, based on Calvo’s recipes, by People’s Kitchen — a nonprofit, community-oriented, traveling restaurant of sorts based in Oakland. There was a light, tangy cashew-based crema. There was a red salsa I couldn’t stop eating — smoky, brightly acidic, and complex in its layers of flavors in a way that reminded me of a good mole.

Most interesting of all, there was a kind of pumpkin-seed dip known asrequesón de semilla de calabaza — a nutty, lime-green mixture with the texture of ricotta cheese. The recipe was of particular significance to Calvo and Esquibel because they’d found it, in an obscure Mexican archaeological journal, right before the cookbook was to be published — and because the dish hails from the Sonoran region of Northern Mexico, where both authors have familial roots.

“When I put it on a warm corn tortilla to test it, it almost brought tears to our eyes,” Calvo said. “It felt like the ancestors were with us as we completed the cookbook.”