When You BUYPOC, How It Serves the Greater BIPOC Community

Posted on Tuesday, 2 November 2021 under Stories Featured

During last summer at the height of the pandemic, food producers were hit hard. There were major supply chain issues and stockists became overwhelmed with the surge of demand for essential products, taking focus from other foods that were deemed “less important”.

Systemically, BIPOC folks have always felt the wrath within the food industry as a whole, but never more so than during a global crisis. Catering for events was cancelled, causing business owners to lose their contracts and some could no longer afford their restaurant spaces, shutting them down as indoor dining was suspended. Many had to completely pivot their business plans, focusing on takeout and home deliveries to adhere to the strict safety guidelines.

Amidst uncertainty and major disruption, there were WOC chefs in Vancouver that wanted to help BIPOC food owners specifically in bringing balance back to the community. Entrepreneur, Mithalee Rawat, the brains behind BIPOC Foods Van, and Founder at Shorba Bone Broth decided to take the opportunity and make that change, along with some help from her industry friends, Anika Makim Talwalkar of The Indian Pantry, Ariela Badenas, Tempea Co-Founder, and myself, Avneet Takhar, a huge foodie!

bipoc women posing for a photo

Photo courtesy of BIPOC Foods Van.

With the BLM movement at its peak in this tumultuous period, along with people wanting to actively support Black and other disenfranchised groups, the conversation about inequality was being brought to the mainstream. This allowed for a vested interest in an online BIPOC food pop-up supporting minorities and also a huge convenience during the time of COVID-19.

The larger impact of the initiative not only showcases diverse vendors but also gives back to the community, with 5% of all sales going to a different BIPOC organization each time. The businesses that participate also have a structural food chain that benefits other BIPOC. For example some of them:

Photo courtesy of BIPOC Foods Van.

Community-driven food enterprises that are founded by those who are marginalized, which amplify the voices of those who look like them, create a safe space in highlighting what the vendor has to offer, in an authentic manner that actively showcases their offerings without tokenism being at play. There’s a deeper understanding and connection, as you have all come across the same barriers at one time or another.

There’s a distinctive problem in food and many other fields with cultural appropriation. When a Western outlet uses food or practices taken from an oppressed cultural group and suddenly rebrands it as the new superfood and trendy staple, often inflating the price and sometimes affecting the region of where it’s originally from, it creates higher prices for locals to service and supply to Western markets first. An obvious example I can name is the turmeric latte. A fast favourite with hipsters and “yummy mummies” alike for its Ayurvedic, healing properties (turmeric) taken from what Indian households have used for centuries, the danger is that people dismiss its origins and buy it from Western brands that co-opt the creation for themselves.

To reclaim space and to be narrators of their own stories is something that needs to be more visible in the food world (and elsewhere) for BIPOC folks. Being a well-informed facilitator or a listener is the first step in creating this sustainable structure that positively impacts everyone, BIPOC, and beyond.

You can browse BIPoC Foods Van for now, with the pop-up shop going live on the website from 9:00 am on Friday, November 5th to 6:00 pm, Sunday, November 7th. Pick-up for products will be at Coho Coffee on Saturday, December 4th, and 5% of all sales proceeds will go to a BIPOC organization.

Find out more here.

folks at a pop-up market

Photo courtesy of BIPOC Foods Van.

About the Author

Avneet Takhar is the Co-Founder of BIPOC Foods Van and a freelance writer, who lives on the First Nations Land of which is colonially named, Vancouver.