180, Michelle Horovitz, Appetite for Change | The Intersection of Food and Social Justice

Jul 17, 2017, 06:00 AM

Appetite for Change uses food as a tool for building health, wealth, and social change in North Minneapolis. Michelle Horovitz grew up in the well-manicured suburbs of Minneapolis. If you ask her about the beginning of her journey to social change, she points to her Jewish upbringing. She says that her family made her aware of major injustices in the world. This gave her a sense of empathy for people who had been “othered.” Throughout high school and college, Michelle waited tables. She had a keen interest in food and wanted to be a chef. As an undergrad student living in West Philadelphia, she was exposed to a world that was very different than her suburban home. After she had graduated, Michelle wanted to go to New York for culinary school. Her friends and family were not supportive of the idea. “Oh, that’s a cute dream,” they told her dismissively. So, Michelle returned to Minneapolis to pursue a law degree from the University of Minnesota. In law school, she says she was “completely caught up in historical, systematic, and institutionalized oppression.” In 2005, she joined the Public Defender’s office in Miami-Dade County. However, the call of the kitchen would not leave her alone. Michelle says “I knew if I did not try pursuing my passion for food in a serious way, I would regret that I never did.” She tried catering on the side while still working at the Public Defender’s office, but that did not quite scratch her itch. Michelle considered enrolling in culinary school, but after a chance meeting with award-winning chef, Michelle Bernstein, she decided to take a leave-of-absence to work in Michelle Bernstein’s restaurant, Michy’s. After her son was born, Michelle returned to Minneapolis. Having been gone from Minneapolis for several years, she began to investigate a way to be involved in the community. “I wanted to find a way to combine my passion for food, and racial and social justice,” she told me. She became involved with a group called Gardening Matters, working for a just, diverse, and sustainable local food system. She volunteered to teach cooking classes through a program called Cooking Matters, at the University of Minnesota. Michelle knew that she wanted to form an organization, but she was not quite clear on where to begin. At first, she did what she knew how to do. She taught cooking classes for new moms. Her work led her to meet Princess Titus and Latasha Powell. The three of them “decided to get the community together over a meal,” Michelle explains. At a series of meals and conversation, they listened carefully to the challenges of those in North Minneapolis related to food. This was the beginning of Appetite for Change. Their offerings came out of these initial conversations with the community. Their flagship program is a workshop that brings people together around food. “The more you come together to cook, eat and talk, the more that comes out that people want to change and build.” Through these conversations, their urban agriculture program was born. When people expressed concern for the lack of grocery shopping, Appetite for Change started working on the policy, advocacy and systems change work. Young people gave input on the kind of programming they wanted. Based on this input, Appetite for Change offers a cooking group for young people that meets twice per month. From the conversations at these cooking workshops, a youth employment program emerged. Appetite for Change operates Kindred Kitchen, where they provide high-quality kitchen space for local businesses. And, they run the Breaking Bread restaurant, bringing people together around real food. Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Michelle Horovitz “The response to the problem is multifaceted and holistic. That’s really a response to how multi-layered the problem is.” “Food touches so many areas of our lives and our community.” “I like to do lots of different things.” “Culinary is an artform.” “There is no ‘right path.’ There is no o...