What you don’t see on the News about Baltimore by Sara Allie

I just read an article from that headlined: “BALTIMORE NAMED NATION’S MOST DANGEROUS CITY BY USA Today.”

But what about the positive from my city, the place where I was raised?

No one documents the positive aspects about Baltimore. I am a teacher for Baltimore City Schools and teach at an alternative high school. So here’s my documentation on a black-owned company in Baltimore that’s improving our young people eating habits.

As I open the library door of in my school, I had no real expectation on the presentation of healthy foods. I was eager to support one of my coworker as well as the students at Achievement Academy in Baltimore. In my two years as an educator, I have learned that most students need to see me excited about education for them to get excited. I wanted them to see my excited about healthy foods.

As I crept into the library, (I was late) I was introduced to the benefits of cauliflower. The gentleman began telling the students the benefits of cauliflower such as the high amount of Vitamin C, which helps boost immune system. The black gentleman who spoke in a commanding yet relatable tone passed out cauliflower nuggets for the students to try. The students were apprehensive (it wasn’t their usual chicken box and fries) so I bit into the cauliflower first. Shocked as them, the cauliflower truly tasted like a healthy nugget. It was seasoned with the right seasoning that included garlic and other herbs. The gentleman also passed around a natural based hot sauce gave the nuggets a spiced taste. The students followed and were amazed at the taste. They were reaching for more and so was I.

As the session wrapped up, I was able to talk to the owner of HealthyPeopleJuice.com, Brother Juan Nance from West Baltimore. He explained to me that he left Baltimore City School System a year ago as an educator but dearly misses the connection with the students. He related that he started his business, Healthy People Juice, while teaching students at an elementary school in Baltimore. He started out taking the leftover fruits and vegetables from the school and creating juices in order to help the kids test proficiently. He started to see how much food impacted how our black students tested as well as how they learned. His thoughts resonated with me. Day after day, I see most of my students who are black or Latino, grab a bag of chips over a fruit, then proceed to enter my classroom and attempt to take a test. This attempt leads to lack of concentration, which eventually leads to aimless babbling in answers, rather than the students using their knowledge.

Nance’s vision is to teach black kids how to eat healthier, as black Kings and Queens. He told the students that he chose Fells Point in Baltimore (a gentrified neighborhood) to place his business, to build black businesses back where they started.

He also explained to them that there is no such thing as the ‘crabs in a barrel’ mentality they are so frequently taught. He explained to the students that we are stronger when we build together, and they have the opportunity to define their own “Black Baltimore.” He did not preach to the students about violence or jail. He gave them positive “nuggets” to feed on and we both agreed that there was a light that went off in most of the students’ minds. They realized that they are able to inspire and aspire. They can make better choices regarding their health, which will allow them to have better critical thinking skills needed shine their own light.

Beyond all, he inspired me. He inspired me to keep teaching the students nuggets; speaking positive affirmations to my students. Although there is a stigma around Baltimore, there are many black women and men that are building to create a better future for the youth.

Sara Allie is from Baltimore, Maryland and is a teacher, freelance writer and avid traveler. She love telling stories and views the world as her storybook.