On the first Saturday of the month, one woman is making a conscious effort to religiously feed the community — for free — with the First Saturday Harvest.
The catch? There isn’t one — just fresh fruits and vegetables available at the Pan African Connection Bookstore Art Gallery and Resource Center.
“April was our first one,” bookstore owner Akwete Tyehimba says. “We had already been doing classes on growing your food, cooking and things like that. So, we’ve always had an ongoing program of teaching people how to eat healthy. People with gardens would always bring me food to give away.
“Harvest Project Food Rescue picks up food from different produce food companies that they’re going to throw away,” she says. “It’s food they don’t have room for when they have new food coming in. Danaë Gutiérrez Martínez, co-founder and executive director of Harvest Project, organizes communities to go pick the food up and give it away to different churches and communities that are in food deserts.”
The Oak Cliff community where the store is located fits the description. Despite starting the giveaway just a few months ago, the last harvest brought out over 600 people. And you can bet deeds like this come back tenfold. In June, the Pan African Connection Bookstore’s AC units were vandalized, resulting in close to $20,000 worth of damage. Soon after the story broke, they got a generous donation.
“NTD Mechanical donated four units for our building, which was a miracle and a blessing,” Tyehimba says. “They provided the cages, the labor — everything. At this point, that issue has been resolved, thank God. Our store is colder than ever.”
As for the food, if you’re leery about the quality, don’t be.
“We take a lot of effort to sort through the food,” Tyehimba says. “We wouldn’t serve you what we wouldn’t eat ourselves. We have to teach people not to waste food, because it’s not a part of our culture to waste. We need to learn to go back to our old ways of being sustainable and recycling. Be resourceful, not wasteful.”
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Tyehimba believes this resurgence of gardening and all-around wellness in the African-American community comes from wanting to live better, and longer.
“I think it’s the health issues that are facing our people. To me, it’s just natural that we are being attentive to these health issues. We know, naturally, that we need to do something different. We see that our people are suffering health-wise, so we know we have to do better.”
The bookstore's next harvest is noon-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4.
Pan African Connection Bookstore, 4466 S. Marsalis Ave. (Oak Cliff)