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  • Writer's pictureEllen Harris

Cookbook Club Sunday Dinner, Let’s Feed Mind, Body & Spirit

On June 16, we gathered virtually and in-person (from Maryland, New York, Virginia, and Mississippi) to hold our first Cookbook Club Sunday Dinner 2024.  But before the talking and eating got started, we saluted those with significant others who were fathers or who did some father mothering themselves, since it also was Father’s Day.

This year a new twist was added to our Sunday Dinner gathering - Read + Cook + Talk + Eat!  "Read" means reading a food-related book that feeds the mind, body, and spirit.  For this first time, "Food Power Politics, the Food Story of the MS Civil Rights Movement" by Bobby J. Smith, II was selected.  And in partnership with BEM Books & More, (, participants received a 20% discount on the book, if purchased from them.  BEM is owned by two sisters, who’ve combined their love for food, books, and cultures of the African diaspora into a bookstore.  The name is a mix of their grandmothers’ initials.  They carry cookbooks and food-related literature, including nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. 

After greetings and introductions, we started our discussion of “Food Power Politics.”  Personally, I loved reading this book.  Dr. Smith draws upon archival research, interviews, and oral histories for us to see the MS civil rights movement through a lens of food insecurity, justice and sovereignty.  And my goodness, he does it in such a powerful way.  I loved this book for its compelling stories, but also because I live right smack dab in the area that he writes about.    

Several key points in the book that were discussed included:

  • Uneven food access (sharecropping, plantation commissaries, federal food assistance with supplemental commodities to food stamps)

  • How Indianola, MS was home to the SNCC office in the Delta and the White Citizens’ Council headquarters

  • Greenwood Food Blockade and how the Food for Freedom Program was created to support Black sharecroppers when plantation owners moved to stop the free commodity food program and start the food stamp program, which required folks that barely had any money to purchase stamps.

  • How the Food for Freedom distribution network was started all over the country to support folks in the Delta by sending shipments of food during the Blockade and how women were the leadership backbone of this effort.

  • Plantation commissaries to supermarkets commercializing limited access to food. 

  • Tufts University Medical School’s long history with the Delta and an early example of ‘food as medicine’ efforts, which goes to show that today’s efforts are not new and have origins in the Mississippi Delta. 

  • Delta Fresh Foods Initiative, the North Bolivar County Good Food Revolution and current youth-based food movements

These points were interspersed with a very charged, invigorating conversation on current food justice and sovereignty issues in communities of color all over the country, not just the Delta.  After we nurtured our minds and spirits with an amazing, powerful, thought-provoking conversation, we shared what some of us prepared.

Our virtual Cookbook Club Sunday Dinner ended. We bid each other good-bye until next time.

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