The Importance of Recognition  

It’s a rigorous fight when tackling food insecurity, since the global food ecosystem is riddled in prejudice. Black food entrepreneurs face demeaning trials as they seek access for support and funding. They, in fact, grapple with a system that impedes their progress. The data reveals that the Black representation in the food industry only accounts for 4.9%, further highlighting the stark reality of their marginalization. Painting Black communities as second-class citizens. It is a stirring reminder of the systemic biases that undermine the recognition of the historical significance of Black entrepreneurs. Perpetuating their disenfranchisement within the industry.     

Janice Bartley, founder of Foodpreneur Lab, punctuates the critical issue of access to land. She outlines the barriers faced by Black food entrepreneurs. These calculated obstacles, that often red tape Black farmers, hinder their ability to secure funding; creating more lags in the system. The Foodprenur Lab, is a digital platform that aims to connect Black Foodpreneurs & Suppliers, to consumer-packaged goods producers. Janice envisions Foodpreneur as the premier hub for food knowledge. A place that garners valuable information, abundant resources, and a network of supportive community members.  

Seeing that there is a national demand to reform a complex food system, Janice has found herself in a position to help mitigate a simpler path for Black food entrepreneurs.

We’re trying to minimize the risk for them. Really teach them what the food ecosystem looks like and where opportunities lie for them to scale.  

With three decades of entrepreneurship experience, running accelerators and incubators, Janice is well-equipped to offer knowledge, support individuals in vulnerable situations, and help them access the right resources. 

A Bootstrap Narrative 

When the data shows you that you represent only a fraction of a larger sample, it can be easy to internalize this as a reflection of your worth; that this somehow represents who you are and how much you contribute. Thereby constraining your sense of possibility and potential. 

Historical teachings often pin the story of a Black entrepreneur as synonymous with the bootstrap narrative, perpetuating the notion that success can only be achieved through individual effort. This narrative overlooks the systemic structures that perpetuate inequality, ensuring that for someone to rise to the top, someone else must inevitably occupy the bottom rung of the ladder. 

So, how can we shift the bootstrap narrative into one where Black farmers are integrated into a broader context where the playing field is leveled, ensuring equitable practices? Where access to land is readily accessible with adequate support and mentorship. When will Black farmers be recognized as essential partners in securing quality food and addressing the deficiencies of a faltering food system? 

Foodpreneur Lab, has supported 154 Black farmers across Canada, creating bonds and community while sharing similar experiences when navigating the food industry. To gain a greater perspective of what Black entrepreneurs bear witness to, they’ve conducted the Africulture Study. The study features their overlooked contributions to the agricultural landscape. The approach included a literature review, food security survey, and focus group discussions.   

Hearing the perspectives of 1000 Black Canadians on food security brought a rich tapestry of experiences to light, underscoring the diverse challenges faced. Yet, perhaps most impactful, was the crafting of recommendations born from these interactions, meticulously tailored to the specific desires and needs of Black farmers. It’s more than just data; it’s the essence of understanding, empathy, and a commitment to creating positive change. In essence, our achievements go beyond statistics – they embody a genuine connection, a shared narrative, and a roadmap for a more inclusive and supportive future for Black farmers in Canada. 

The Power of Persistence
In Janice’s view, “food is the new currency.” Food insecurity also represents a significant aspect of economic hardship, particularly when access to affordable, nutritious options is restricted in certain communities. Black farmers are cultivating food to alleviate the burden of food insecurity. However, it takes a lot to voice this denigrating dilemma. It takes the voices of a community to expose and express their lived experiences in this plight.

Nobody is listening. At some point, the more you talk, the more people start to pay attention. Because you’re not going away.

Accessing a way through a compromised food system forces individuals to overcome and bootstrap unnecessary obstacles. Access to quality, affordable food is a fundamental human right. Moreover, it is essential for Black farmers to access opportunities to grow food that resonates with their cultural heritage and nourish their communities. As Janice put it, “to humanize, and legitimize.”