I love stories about how food can bring a community together and heal after a tragedy.Â Jenga Mwendo is a native of New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.Â She was living in New York when Hurricane Katrina hit, and its effect on her community and family moved her to pack up her belongings and return home to New Orleans. The Lower Ninth Ward was hardest hit by the storm, and in her quest to revitalize her neighborhood, she formed the Backyard Gardens Network, which manages two community gardens and provides a network for local gardeners.
Though the two community gardens she runs are not capable of feeding all the families, Mwendo is positive about what they contribute.Â "People come by to cut herbs for their food, or whatever we might be growing, like collards or broccoli right now," she said, "It's definitely not enough to feed the entire community. But the focus is on community building, bringing the community together. Giving people the opportunity to grow together if that's what they want."
Since moving home, Mwendo has found another benefit from gardening: eating raw.Â She works as a raw food caterer, serving foods such as a "marinated vegetable wrap with mushrooms, tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, garlic, tarragon, and rosemary wrapped in a kale leaf."
Eating raw has had many benefits, according to Mwendo.Â She felt energetic and said "my sinus problems disappeared, my skin was clear and beautiful, and I felt really calm and positive all the time."
I'm impressed to see the resilience with which Mwendo has approached restoring the Lower Ninth Ward, and I applaud how she is healing the community with food.
Read the entire interview here.