Racial Equity

Hunger and Health: The Devastating Impact of Structural Racism

February 9, 2021  • Food and Society Program

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COVID-19 has had a disproportionate effect on low-income, communities of color, but conversations about racial disparities mask the real public health emergency – racism. Poor access to healthcare and bias in clinical settings, underfunded educational and health institutions, housing segregation, chronic stress, and lack of access to clean water, air, and nutritious food all converge to shape the health of children and families of color. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement that named racism as a key social determinant of health, noting that “failure to address racism will continue to undermine health equity for all children, adolescents, emerging adults, and their families.” This session will delve deeper into the connection between health and structural racism, and the inequities of our health and food systems that compound negative health outcomes. We’ll also hear directly from the people and organizations that are leading the health and food equity movement.

  • Dr. J. Nadine Gracia, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Trust for America’s Health (Moderator)
  • Chef Tamearra Dyson, Executive Chef and Owner of Souley Vegan LLC.
  • Dr. Frederick Douglass Opie, Professor of History and Foodways, Babson College and Podcast Host, Fred Opie Show

Tamearra Dyson is the Executive Chef and Owner of Souley Vegan LLC. As a single mother with no savings or experience in the restaurant industry, Dyson left the medical field only one pre-requirement away from nursing school to pursue what she felt in her spirit was her destiny. Having worked for Marin General Hospital for almost ten years, earning an outstanding reputation in work ethic and expertise in the specialty unit of Endoscopy, Dyson’s peers thought she was insane to leave her security as a single mother having no savings. A true testament to “The Leap of Faith” Dyson left everything behind striving for her goal which was to launch a vegan food business where she prepares and sells vegan cuisine in a way that the world had not yet seen. In 2009 Dyson opened a brick and mortar now infamously known as Souley Vegan. Twelve years later, Dyson has built Souley Vegan to a nationally known brand with 6 locations. Dyson plans to continue to grow while opening the door for franchising while exploring other areas of the food industry.

Dr. J. Nadine Gracia is Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public health policy, research, and advocacy organization in Washington, DC. She has extensive leadership and management experience in federal government, the nonprofit sector, professional associations, and academia. Previously, Dr. Gracia served in the Obama Administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health and Director of the Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She also served as Chief Medical Officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, where her portfolio included adolescent health, emergency preparedness, environmental health and climate change, global health, and the White House Council on Women and Girls. A first-generation Haitian-American, Dr. Gracia is active in many civic, professional, and academic organizations.

Fred Opie is an innovative educator, speaker, author, and host of the Fred Opie Show. He is also a Babson College Professor of History and Foodways. His most recent book is Southern Food and Civil Rights: Feeding the Revolution. To learn more, visit FredOpie.com.