When Princess Titus set out to spread the message about the importance of eating healthful foods, she faced the challenge of doing it in a community overrun with fast food chains serving up anything but.
Her task, which has grown from a mission into a movement called Appetite for Change (AFC), meant not only steering people away from the high-calorie fast-food fare but also making healthier options, such as fresh produce, more accessible.
Six years ago, Jessie McDaniel and LaTaijah Powell saw potential in a youth program with Appetite for Change to raise awareness. Now McDaniel and Powell are youth leaders and facilitators for the Minneapolis program.
McDaniel and Titus both saw a need for a push toward better health. They also saw the importance of inspiring youth in the community and understood that building trust within the community was part of the process.
“If we were not training young people and exposing them to how to feed themselves, we were disadvantaging our future,” Titus said.
The program’s message went viral with a song called “Grow Food.” In the video, some of the youth from AFC rapped about the importance of nutrition while comparing the adverse effects of poor nutrition to things like urban crime.
Although the video has led to an increase in valuable donations and publicity, Titus and McDaniel emphasize their unique mind-sets toward the movement. They also hope the public realizes their genuine ambition and dedication to improve eating habits, even though a snapshot of the North Side and its sea of too-convenient takeout eateries shows a formidable challenge, not unfamiliar to other communities they’ve visited.
Some might wonder if it’s just a coincidence. “We’ve been to California and Seattle, and as soon as you see the black or brown people, you start to see the [unhealthful] food,” Titus said.
Said McDaniel, “I don’t care if we get a million dollars tomorrow, and if they tell us we don’t even have to work no more, I’ll still be in the community, at the garden putting in that work because my people gotta eat.”
AFC, with a staff of 40 to 50 full-time employees and more than 20 part-timers, created the vehicle to allow young people to let their voices be heard and address social issues. McDaniel shows his belief in immersing the youth into a healthier future, while being convinced “the youth is the truth.”
Titus takes it a step further, emphasizing the community gardens where she hopes to see the community unite and change the narrative.
“The stories have to be told, that we are courageous enough to go to those places of soil and plant with strangers to meet our basic human need,” Titus said.
Appetite for Change is having a domino effect around the country with more people buying into the idea of a healthier future. AFC is still gaining traction, but at this rate the possibility of expanding AFC seems likely.
AFC has been fighting to change, along with the rut of unhealthy eating habits, the narrative of the north Minneapolis community, even the negative label “food desert” and perceptions about things like high rates of diabetes.
McDaniel said he doesn’t let negative perceptions affect his goals. Titus also hears the negative perceptions about the North Side from “out of the box,” and also blocks them out for the sake of the movement.