Pain and necessity birth community-conscious eatery

Submitted photo

Appetite for Change (AFC) is not just a nonprofit organization driven by building health and wellness in the community, but also a movement that began as a deep connection among three women from different backgrounds. Through events and other programming, AFC emphasizes the importance of growing your own food as well as supporting those in your community who are doing so.

“I want to know the people who are cooking my food,” said AFC co-founder Princess Titus. She also expressed the importance of locally owned, specifically black-owned businesses. 

“I want Sammy’s making my sandwiches and Leah from Broadway Chow Mein cooking my food if Breaking Bread Cafe is not fixing it,” said Titus, referencing Sammy’s Avenue Eatery and Broadway Chow Mein, two restaurants located in North Minneapolis. 

Breaking Bread Cafe & Catering, a local restaurant in North Minneapolis, is one facet of AFC’s approach to food justice. “All of our food is from scratch. Our pancake mix from scratch. Cornbread from scratch,” said Titus. “The kale’s grown on Eighth and Queen [at the intersection of Eighth Ave. and Queen Ave. on the North Side].”

This community-conscious eatery trains and hires local youth. According to their published newsmagazine, AFC has employed over 270 community members as well as trained and hired 80 youth. Their newsmagazine also noted that, through their agriculture program, over 40,000 pounds of produce have been grown in North Minneapolis.  

Submitted photo Community Cooks Youth Night at Break Bread Cafe.

Pain, growth, and organic sustenance

In that company magazine, the three co-founders of AFC describe themselves as “women, mothers, and warriors” as well as “sisters.” In January 2012, after sitting down together as strangers, co-founders Titus, Michelle Horovitz, and LaTasha Powell formed a bond around food and a passion to empower the North Minneapolis community.  

“I think we’re unique in that we were started by three women from very different upbringings, different backgrounds, different worldviews,” said Horovitz, who is also AFC’s executive director. Horovitz describes herself as “a recovering lawyer” who didn’t feel fulfilled working in the criminal justice system as a public defender. 

“Even though I felt like I was on the right side as a public defender,” said Horovitz, “I just felt like I was, like, part of a cog in a wheel that I just didn’t agree with.” In 2010, she moved back to Minneapolis from Miami to pursue her dream of combining her passions for racial justice and food. 

While looking for ways to realize her ambitions in North Minneapolis, Horovitz met Northsider Powell when she attended Powell’s Metropolitan State University class presentation about the North YMCA. 

Titus and Horovitz met through a mutual friend in November 2011. “We were talking about our babies, our losses, our pains,” said Titus. They had a mutual understanding of one another because each had experienced the loss of a child. Horovitz shared her recent miscarriage with Titus. 

Titus had lost her 16-year-old son, Anthony, to gun violence. He was shot and killed in 2010. While channeling her grief through unhealthy habits such as drinking and smoking, Titus also stopped caring for her garden. 

“I was somewhere doing what people do when somebody dies,” said Titus. “I slipped into an addiction just as my mother did when my dad died many years ago.” She said someone from her place of employment, Better Network MN, helped her through that painful time. 

“I remember he pulled up on my block and was like, ‘P, you need an intervention.’” 

Shortly after, Titus said, she remembers looking at the sun and thinking of her son, Anthony. 

Appetite for Change
Submitted photo An Appetite for Change volunteer working in one of the community gardens.

“When I miss my son, I can look at the sun,” said Titus. “And the sun said, ‘Why did you let your garden die?’” Titus was reminded of the food she used to grow as well as the legacy of her family and family friends growing food in her hometown of Chicago. 

Titus and Horovitz also connected over how food played such an important role in their lives. “We talked about how important cooking and growing [food] was at a young age,” said Titus. “My daughter took her first steps in the cucumber patch.” 

Soon after that, all three women met and decided to start making a change in North Minneapolis. “We came together and knew that the foodscape of North Minneapolis was not at its full potential and not serving the needs of the people who lived here,” said Titus. She, Horovitz and Powell then created the Community Cooks program. 

Community Cooks is a program that can be structured for different people whether it be new or soon-to-be mothers, entire families and youth, as well as local organizations, to learn about nutrition and cooking. Titus said they recruited 400 volunteers over the span of eight or nine events. Titus also said the program helped bring her and her oldest son, Jessie, back together after they lost Anthony.

Appetite for Change
Submitted photo

“We weren’t speaking because his brother was missing and he looked like him and I looked like him and we just were separate,” said Titus. Both Titus and her eldest son are passionate about serving their community. Titus asked Jessie for help recruiting people for community cooks, specifically with their final youth event.

Titus said about 85 to 90 kids were making fruit kabobs, and she asked her son to come to the event. He attended, and shortly thereafter, when they were both at home, Jessie asked Titus to come into the kitchen.

When Titus came into the kitchen, her son asked if they could make biscuits and scrambled eggs. “It brought us to a point where without tears we were able to use food to even remember his brother and talk again,” said Titus. 

Over the nine years of the organization’s existence, AFC has had over 3,000 individual community cooks participate and 10,000 meals have been served. Classes are free and childcare is provided. 

About Abeni Hill

Abeni Hill is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at ahill@spokesman-recorder.com.

View all posts by Abeni Hill →