Celebrate Black History Month in the Garden and in the Kitchen!

To celebrate Black History Month this year, we’ve updated our list of books and other media that feature stories and contributions of African American children and adults in the food and garden space. We encourage you not only to use these during the month of February, but year round – although the cold winter months are a good time to pull some books from the shelves and dream about spring veggies together!
Elementary School
Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis By Robbin Gourley Long before the natural-food movement gained popularity, Edna Lewis championed purity of ingredients, regional cuisine, and farm-to-table eating. She was a chef when female chefs—let alone African American female chefs—were few and far between.

Our School Garden! By Rick Swann New city. New school. Michael is feeling all alone—until he discovers the school garden! There’s so many ways to learn, and so much work to do. Taste a leaf? Mmm, nice and tangy hot. Dig for bugs? “Roly-poly!” he yells. But the garden is much more than activities outdoors: making school garden stone soup, writing Found Poems and solving garden riddles, getting involved in community projects such as Harvest Day, food bank donations, and spring plant sales. Each season creates a new way to learn, explore and make friends.

What’s Your Favorite Food? By Eric Carle Everybody has a favorite food. Some enjoy sweet treats like rich honey or ripe, juicy berries. Others prefer the savory comforts of warming matzo ball soup or creamy chicken Alfredo. With beautiful illustrations and charming personal stories, fourteen children’s book artists share their favorite foods and why they love them.

How a Seed Grows By Helene J. Jordan Once, a long time ago, the oak tree in your backyard could have fit your pocket! How can a little acorn grow so big? This book shares the secret of seeds. With the right combination of water, sun, and soil a seed will send roots down into the ground and shoot leaves up into the sunlight. Seeds can grow into flowers or vegetables or even trees. Look inside to learn the simple steps for turning a packet of seeds into a garden.

In the Garden with Dr. Carver By Susan Grigsby Sally is a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grownups with their farms and the children with their school garden.

One Child, One Seed: A South African Counting Book By Kathryn Cave Cultivating, sharing, preparing. Starting with a single seed in a child’s hand and leading right through to a warm, nourishing meal (with plenty for all), this colorful book offers up a satisfying story of the fruits of a communal effort.

Freedom Soup By Tami Charles It’s New Year’s Day and Belle and Ti Gran are embarking on a tradition that links generations—making Freedom Soup. With the question “Know why they call it Freedom Soup?”, Ti Gran begins to tell the story of her heritage, which transports the reader to Haiti before, during, and after the slave revolution and lasts through the soup making process.

Pop Pop and Me and a Recipe By Irene Smalls Join Pop Pop and his grandson as they beat, batter and bond baking the young boy’s favorite Lemon Bar Cake. With full color lovingly painted step by step instructions and a full ingredient list this book is a sweet recipe for the hearts of Lemon cake eaters young and old.

The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter By Shabazz Larkin Shabazz Larkin’s The Thing About Bees is a Norman Rockwell-inspired Sunday in the park, a love poem from a father to his two sons, and a tribute to the bees that pollinate the foods we love to eat.

Middle & High School
Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time By Adrian Miller In this insightful and eclectic history, Adrian Miller delves into the influences, ingredients, and innovations that make up the soul food tradition. Focusing each chapter on the culinary and social history of one dish–such as fried chicken, chitlins, yams, greens, and “red drinks” – Miller uncovers how it got on the soul food plate and what it means for African American culture and identity.

Seedfolks By Paul Fleischman A Vietnamese girl plants six lima beans in a Cleveland vacant lot. Looking down on the immigrant-filled neighborhood, a Romanian woman watches suspiciously. A school janitor gets involved, then a Guatemalan family. Then muscle-bound Curtis, trying to win back Lateesha. Pregnant Maricela. Amir from India. A sense of community sprouts and spreads.

Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land By Leah Penniman In 1920, 14 percent of all land-owning US farmers were black. Today less than 2 percent of farms are controlled by black people―a loss of over 14 million acres and the result of discrimination and dispossession. While farm management is among the whitest of professions, farm labor is predominantly brown and exploited, and people of color disproportionately live in “food apartheid” neighborhoods and suffer from diet-related illness. The system is built on stolen land and stolen labor and needs a redesign.

Freedom Farmers By Monica M. White In May 1967, internationally renowned activist Fannie Lou Hamer purchased forty acres of land in the Mississippi Delta, launching the Freedom Farms Cooperative (FFC). A community-based rural and economic development project, FFC would grow to over 600 acres, offering a means for local sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and domestic workers to pursue community wellness, self-reliance, and political resistance. Life on the cooperative farm presented an alternative to the second wave of northern migration by African Americans–an opportunity to stay in the South, live off the land, and create a healthy community based upon building an alternative food system as a cooperative and collective effort.

Ron Finley, a.k.a. the Gangsta Gardener

Meet Ron Finley, a man who will not sit still and watch a problem take root. Having grown up in the South Central Los Angeles food prison, Ron is familiar with the area’s lack of fresh produce. He knew what it’s like to drive 45 minutes just to get a fresh tomato. In 2010, he set out to fix the problem. Outside his front door, that is. Ron planted vegetables in the curbside dirt strip next to his home. And quietly, carefully, tenderly started a revolution. In the dirt with Ron Finley, the Gangsta Gardener – Los Angeles Times (article) A guerrilla gardener in South Central LA – TED Talk (video)

Urban Roots (documentary) URBAN ROOTS is a documentary that tells the story of the emergence of urban farming in the city of Detroit. A timely, moving and inspiring film that speaks to a nation grappling with collapsed industrial towns and the need to forge a sustainable and prosperous future.