Grow to Life hosts fall market series, encourages nutritious eating
Grow to Life, a nutrition-focused organization in the Triangle, is a way for the community to serve the community.
Makeda Ma’at, the founder and executive director of the Black-led organization, said Grow to Life aims to provide community members in and around Chapel Hill with access to fresh food through a welcoming and non-judgmental environment.
“I just saw the need, the community need was so bad,” Ma’at said.
For over nine years, Ma'at has been leading Grow to Life in providing stable food access to families and community members.
In addition to food distribution, the organization offers gardening classes for the public and sustains community gardens of their own.
Since 2014, they have partnered with Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation to facilitate complimentary food distributions.
A core component of Grow to Life is its relationship with local high school and college students, particularly those from UNC, Duke University and North Carolina Central University, Ma’at said.
The organization offers many opportunities for students to serve, and Ma'at said that she is grateful to work with youth volunteers.
Through hands-on experiences, she said Grow to Life volunteers learn to cultivate and harvest produce.
“We eat food, but we don’t understand the process of how food becomes, from seed to fruit,” Ma'at said.
Dohsay Sein, a student at NCCU, recently received the Community Partners Student Award for his work as a volunteer at Grow to Life.
Sein has contributed almost 150 hours to maintaining the community garden, helping to set up events and distributing food.
The organization hosted its Farmers of Color Market Fall Series over the past two months, with the last of its three markets taking place on Oct. 26. Ma’at said the farmers’ markets like this one help the organization promote their values and programs, fundraise and provide nutritional information to the community.
Thursday's market included live poetry writing and music, lawn games for kids and food vendors.
Market attendee Jamie Cavanaugh said she first heard about the event from flyers and friends.
“It’s great to see a part of our culture that isn’t always spotlighted, and helps to bring diversity into the neighborhood, and it was great,” Cavanaugh said.
The market is a way to uplift farmers of color and other minority businesses by providing them a space to sell produce and products to the community, Ma’at said.
Yasira Williams, the founder of JWM Spices, hosted a table selling spice blends and teas at the market.
“My children help me vend, and the fact that they have games and things to do is excellent,” Williams said.
Attendee Honoria Middough, a Durham Public Schools teacher, noted that it was beautiful to see children of all backgrounds playing together at the market.
The Oct. 26 market also included health and wellness organizations.
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Dietitian and co-founder of Eat Well Exchange, Jasmine Westbrooks, provided nutrition education with a focus on cultural foods, such as cactus, okra, cucumbers, plums and tomatoes. The free produce was sponsored by the Black Farmers Hub.
“I’m very excited to be here and see the community coming out to taste the delicious foods, support the local vendors and even supporting Eat Well Exchange and what we’re doing as far as teaching people how to eat healthy based on their culture,” Westbrooks said.
At the booth, Westbrooks encouraged people to take a fruit and vegetable and then something they have never heard of before.
Ma'at said the market creates an environment that brings the community together for food security, fellowship and fun.
“We extended a very welcoming environment, and we encouraged everyone to come out and support local businesses and organizations and just enjoy themselves,” she said.