For centuries, food has been an intermediate for gathering with friends and family, for sharing new ideas, and for celebrations. Now more than ever, food is also being used as a platform for social justice, initiating debates and discussions about the world around us.
Restaurants around the world are veterans in serving their communities. More recently, however, there has been an increase in the number of restaurants involved in nationwide advocacy efforts and social justice initiatives. Following the outrage that ensued from a variety of racial crimes last year, many restaurants rallied their voices to host productive conversations, gather support, and extend their services beyond the dining experience.
Boston-area restaurants have been leading efforts for increased social activism. Last summer, many restaurants stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by fundraising. At the same time, restaurants worked hand-in-hand to offer details on black-owned restaurants in the area through a rapidly expanding spreadsheet. Donating to organizations such as the Equal Justice Initiative, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and many others, these Boston restaurants have been catalysts for change. Mei Mei, a Fenway restaurant, stands out in its efforts to address just causes. In the past year, it has donated to a multitude of organizations including National Bail Out, The Loveland Foundation, and Black and Pink. It echoes the importance of having an equitable world to expand the business into; restaurants are no longer staying silent.
People are noticing. The efforts taken by chefs and restaurateurs to be leaders in the food industry have disseminated into day-to-day conversations, onto the news, and onto social media. Ben & Jerry’s, a fan favorite everywhere, is recognized as one of the most active food companies in this sense. It not only offers a wide array of ice cream flavors but also supports various social justice causes. From advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, to climate justice, to campaign finance reforms, Ben & Jerry’s truly believes that silence is not an option.
Olivia Stump, MCAS ‘23, took notice of Ben & Jerry’s active social media presence throughout the most recent wave of the BLM movement. She took notice for a couple of reasons, beyond the carefully designed graphics and witty puns. Scrolling through Instagram, she started seeing video shorts on the criminal justice system, “how-to” on voting, and a much more active Ben & Jerry’s presence in general, especially this past year. She appreciated how as a prominent food company, it “used its platform to inform others on where to find resources and how to be active citizens.” She doesn’t stand alone in her recognition, nor in using Ben & Jerry’s resources to inform those around her. Social media has become an instrument through which restaurants can use their voice.
The food and restaurant scene is not limited to exploring different recipes or seeking sustainable and local sources. It has mobilized, blazing a path in social justice, using its platform and the power of food to bring people together and promote change.
For more information or resources on how to amplify your voice through food and restaurants, see the links below:
Cover image courtesy of Well+Good