Black History Today: Chef Ariel Bangs, Feeding Her Community During Crisis and Beyond

by Amanda Williams

(Black History Today is published in collaboration with Rise Up for Students.) 

“Healing begins where the wound was made.”
-Alice Walker

Over the ten years that I’ve worked with families, there’s always been a need to keep free food around. For the summer camper who has forgotten their lunch, for the families in need of assistance over weekends and summers, we keep food pantries full of instant mac and cheese and dehydrated soups. Canned, convenient, non-perishable food kept around to sustain those who need an extra hand.

I have no shame in saying that quick, convenient pantry options can be a life-saver. But in a year high in stress and potential risks to our health, our most vulnerable communities must be given access to the most nourishing food. That’s how I took notice of Chef Ariel Bangs. 

Owner of Healthy Creations, Ariel Bangs has been a long-time advocate for plant-based eating in the Black community. In March 2020 she made plant-based eating more accessible to those impacted by COVID-19 when she founded Plant Based Food Share, an organization dedicated to bringing boxes of “fresh produce, pantry essentials, fresh-baked goods, and culturally relevant, prepared meals” to under-served communities in food deserts.

Chef Ariel is not dishing out your average food-pantry-style haul. Organic food boxes vibrant with green and spots of red, orange, and yellow look no different than the CSA boxes that I’ve paid for, and she’s intertwined her work to support local farmers and small businesses as well as the people receiving the food. Her work is built on a mission greater than feeding those who are impacted now, but rather to educate, nourish, and heal families beyond the current crisis.

Ariel Bangs sorts through produce inside Cafe Red in Seattle, Washington, on April 6, 2020. (Photo: Carolyn Bick)

Aware of the holistic needs of the community around her, Chef Ariel connects with resources and continues to build her network of supporters. So, when we connected over an interest in my toddler programming for the parents in the food share, I wasn’t surprised. This is someone who knows that the health of our brothers and sisters is not one-dimensional, but that we must feed the entire soul.

The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the Black community was not unique among the overall impact of health issues on Black-Americans in this country. Chef Ariel, therefore, did not wait on the data before putting into action her belief that plant-based food is necessary to our healing, and now Plant Based Food Share has already shared more than a thousand boxes of healthy food. Her unwavering commitment to our right to nourish our bodies and our minds fills each box.

She is the embodiment of what civil rights leaders meant when they called for community care, quietly feeding and healing people who need a hand. For this and all of her work that too often goes unappreciated, Chef Ariel Bangs is Black History Today. 

Amanda Williams is a teacher, a mom, and the founder of Mommy and Me Community, a group for moms of infants and toddlers interested in getting together with our little ones to play, explore, and learn. She also created and manages Seattle Green Book, a Black-owned-business directory for the Seattle area.

Featured image by Devin Chicras for the South Seattle Emerald.

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