Chef duo teams up to fight against food injustice and social inequity within San Francisco’s most un
Photo credit: The Hood Chefs
Pictured: Ronnishia Johnson and Rheema Calloway
“Food Apartheid” are two words you rarely associate with San Francisco.
The city by the Bay
San Francisco is known for its incredibly steep hills, after all the city was built on 7 hills. The city’s breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean is a beautiful backdrop that can essentially be seen from just about anywhere within the city. The beautiful historical architecture, along with modern sleek skyscrapers, adds a unique, but classic San Francisco “flare” to the city.
The City’s demographic is one of the most multi-cultured, diverse groups of habitants, all living within a 46 mile radius. Residents, and tourists are able to experience deeply enriched, cultural traditions including, cuisines that span from countries around the globe.
San Francisco is hailed as one of the global leaders of tech innovation. The city has attracted some of today’s most innovative companies and the brilliant minds behind them. Local politicians have contributed greatly towards building a tech ecosystem that supports these organizations. Attractive tax breaks for tech companies, have increased the number of startups, willing to set up shop in the city.
Tech companies have access to a top tier talent pool of educated, highly skilled employees from all over the world. Employees are lured to work for companies that incentivizes individuals with high paying salaries, and the ability to cash in on the opportunity to build wealth through stock options and equity. In fact, the city is expected to see another wave of wealth, with IPO’s, soon to be public, and those who recently went public; Lyft, Slack, Postmates, Pinterest and Uber.
Where the wealth gap ends and begins for some San Francisco residents
In San Francisco, Black and African American residents experience poverty at nearly three times the average rate. Women still experience poverty at a higher rate than men.
Ronnishia Johnson and Rheema Calloway, are The Vegan Hood Chefs. Not only are both women natives of San Francisco, but they’ve equally witnessed over the years, social and economic strategies, that have negatively impacted their communities. The Bayview-Hunters district’s residents are the most underserved communities within San Francisco. While the rest of the city went through transformations of economic growth, Ronnishia and Rheema’s Lakeview and Bayview Hunter’s Point districts appeared to have been overlooked and somewhat forgotten.
Chef Ronnishia and Chef Rheema both grew up in San Francisco’s Lakeview and Bayview Hunter’s Point districts. At the time, the areas were made up primarily of Black and African American residents. Their neighborhoods were hit hard with crime and poverty that spanned over nearly 3 decades.
The Hunters Point neighborhood, is located in the Southeastern part of San Francisco that sits on the peninsula of the Bay. The neighborhood adjoins the Hunter Point Naval Shipyard. In the 1920s, the area had a population primarily made up of Italian and Maltese residents. By the 1940s, the Second World War brought an influx of Black migrants to San Francisco to work in the shipyards. The Navy commissioned shipbuilding operations to aid in World War II.
Some 20,000 workers is said to have migrated to the Bayview district causing a shortage of housing. The U.S. government responded by building 5,500 units in 1942. From the 1960s to 1980s, the U.S. government slashed jobs, and eventually closed the shipyard in 1988.
The closure devastated the community. Many skilled workers who were once reliant on the military for employment, found themselves unemployed. Over the next 30 years, the neighborhood underwent waves of high crime rates, poverty, and essentially businesses divested from the area.
As businesses closed in the Bayview Hunters Point district, so did grocery stores. Large supermarket chains declined to locate their stores within the neighborhoods.
With limited access to healthy, affordable food options, residents are left with choosing between feeding their families with processed food items, which are only shelved in most corner stores, or opt for fast food chains in the area.
The response heard around the neighborhood: Chef Ronnishia and Rheema
In 2017, Ronnishia and Rheema launched The Vegan Hood Chefs, to help fight against food justice and social inequity within San Francisco’s most underserved communities. The company provides catering services and educational cooking demos for disenfranchised communities.
In a new study, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Arizona State University found that fast food chains in predominantly black neighborhoods were more than 60 percent more likely to advertise to children than in predominantly white neighborhoods.
Lack of access to healthy food options have resulted in Black and African Americans having the highest mortality rate for 9 of the top 10 causes of death in San Francisco.
Residents in underserved communities, have the highest cases of diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity. Today, Residents in the Bayview Hunters Point d