For the first time in its 43-year history, the Bronx Museum hosted a workshop on Sunday afternoon addressing the issue of food justice in the Bronx to better align itself with key issues affecting the borough.
The green-inspired "A Taste of Spring in the Bronx" event, held at the Bronx Museum, a contemporary art museum in Grand Concourse, featured a film screening on immigrant street vendors selling produce in poorer New York City neighborhood, a cooking demonstration using produce and a tree giveaway.
The event was a special edition of the Bronx Lab, the museum's test site for new ideas that seeks to engage individuals in meaningful discussions about contemporary culture.
Although the museum's focus is art, it tries to stay in touch with the issues affecting the community, said Hatuey Ramos, curator of education. Given the rise of the food justice movement in the area, a cooking demonstration seemed fit, he said.
"We are an art museum, but we are also very interested in being part of the community in a different way because art doesn't happen in a vacuum," Ramos said. "There is a context for art, and there's some issues that we have to consider as part of the larger role of our institution."
Tanya Fields, founder of the BLK Projek, a Bronx-based food justice organization led by women of color that uses the local food movement to foster economic mobility for low-income women and youth, ran a workshop on easy cooking techniques using fresh affordable produce to create nutritious meals.
Fields — who runs the South Bronx Mobile Market — walked an intimate crowd through the process of making a frittata, an egg-based Italian dish, along with home fries and avocados on the side. She gave them a variety of cooking tips, such as using coconut oil and sunflower oil instead of vegetable oil, and emphasized the importance of bringing about food justice in the Bronx.
"If you've got kids, you've got a job, pressed for time, how do we cook meals that take 30 minutes or less?" Fields explained to the audience. "That don't take a ton of fancy ingredients and can be done with things in your kitchen?"
The event also featured another museum first: a new collaboration with the New York Restoration Project, a nonprofit organization that works to transform open spaces in under-served communities. Following the cooking demonstration, individuals could either pre-register a tree or pick it up at the museum as part of the organization's citywide tree giveaway, free of charge. They sold all 100 trees, with seven of them being pre-registered.
Miriam D. Tabb, the museum's public liaison, who is a resident of Grand Concourse, got involved with the New York Restoration Project last year and wanted to bring the tree giveaway to the neighborhood.
"We could always use a greener area and a greener look to the neighborhood," Tabb said.
The event also included a screening of film director Maria Mazzio's "The Apple Pushers," a documentary that follows immigrant street vendors who roll fresh fruits and vegetables into poorer New York City neighborhoods.
Over the past four months, 20-year-old Froilan Nuñez has become very interested in organic products. Coincidentally enough, the organizers convinced him to attend the cooking demonstration just as it was about to start.
"I think it's great that people care about healthy food and about sharing good information to the community," Nuñez said. "I think it's great and I think people should appreciate this stuff more because it's for their own health."
Claire Cornish, 51, of Westchester County, who is originally from England, runs a gardening program and works in the city with male youth. She wanted to learn about food justice in the Bronx.
"I think it's good to see vegetables used in cooking and the idea of promoting healthy cooking," Cornish said.