Community Cooks: Decolonizing Our Diets

a drawn image of two hands holding a small plant.

Community Cooks is an ongoing, collaborative project that brings together a collective of local and national food justice organizations advocating for communities of color in Western New York.

Project description

“Community cooks” are those who feed their communities, and, in feeding their communities, hold them together and drive them forward.

The Community Cooks project acknowledges the foundational role that these cooks play in building and sustaining multiple social justice movements, and of the role that food can, and has served in establishing connections, creating and sustaining knowledge, and generating radical practice.

Therefore, the Community Cooks project seeks to support an ongoing, intersectional dialogue that includes, but is not limited to, organizations and individuals that advocate for migrant, Indigenous, African American, Latinx, and LGBTQIA+ community rights.

The Community Cooks collaborative is happy to announce a set of Experiential Learning opportunities for Spring 2020.

  • Saturday, March 21: MEZALAND at the Albright Knox Northland (with Chef Alexa Joan)
  • Saturday, April 4: Gardening Days Kick-Off Event at Grassroots Gardens
  • Thursday, April 30: May Day Farmworkers Event (location TBD)

MEZALAND is a transformative dining event during which a diverse group of compassionate, community-focused individuals will participate in a non-choreographed performance of free flowing story-sharing and healthy conversation while enjoying an enlightening, healthy culinary experience where “vegetables are the star of the plate.” All this set within the living tableau of the Albright-Knox Northland.

Students are invited to participate in this one-of-a-kind event in a range of capacities—helping organize, serve, enjoy, and cleanup the meal; constructing a video- or photo-essay regarding the themes of the evening; interviewing participants for a journalistic piece, etc.

Project outcome

There are many potential outcomes and/or ongoing projects for students, tailored to the individual student, but toward the goal of community connection and conversation:

  • Family recipe or cookbook developed through research into the student’s family history of immigration or migration
  • An oral history of “community cooks” or food justice activists in Buffalo
  • Organization of a food pantry for food insecure students
  • Organization of food-centered events for students of color and first generation students on campus

Project details

Timing, eligibility and other details
Length of commitment Any
Start time Anytime
In-person, remote, or hybrid?
Level of collaboration  Varies
Benefits Volunteer
Who is eligible Anyone
Truman Scholarship

Students participating in this project might be interested in and eligible for the Truman Scholarship. Connect with the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships to learn more.

Core partners

  • Food for the Spirit
  • I-Collective 
  • Kakhwa'on:we/Real People Eat Real Food, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory
  • Native American Community Services of Erie & Niagara Counties, Inc.
  • NeuWater & Associates
  • Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust
  • Urban Fruits & Veggies. 

Project mentor

Camilo Trumper

Associate Professor


574 Park Hall

Phone: (716) 645-8422


Start the project

  1. Email the project mentor using the contact information above to express your interest and get approval to work on the project. (Here are helpful tips on how to contact a project mentor.)
  2. After you receive approval from the mentor to start this project, click the button to start the digital badge. (Learn more about ELN's digital badge options.) 

Preparation activities

Once you begin the digital badge series, you will have access to all the necessary activities and instructions. Your mentor has indicated they would like you to also complete the specific preparation activities below. Please reference this when you get to Step 2 of the Preparation Phase. 

Preparation for participation in a larger food justice project begins with participation in the Community Cooks: Decolonizing our Diet workshop on October 15th. Students should also consider the following as supplementary preparation:

  • Meet with the project mentor to fully outline the scope of the independent project
  • Attending workshops, orientations, or actions hosted by Buffalo City area partners (including but not limited to the UB Food Lab, Massachusetts Avenue Project, Grassroots Gardens, etc.)