Monthly Archives: July 2016

A Letter to my People about Food by Hasshan Batts


On May 20th, I attended a community discussion, Food in the Public Square, addressing food, family and culture hosted by Northampton Community College and RenewLV at the Fowler Center on Southside of Bethlehem. The program aimed at capturing the “food stories” of the participants. Although the event attracted a number of Latino participants, I was disappointed to find that of the 120 people in attendance to address the critical issue of food, an issue that greatly impacts the Black community, I was one of three Black people present.

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I have been searching for answers, asking, “Where is the Black voice in community discussions like this that are held on important issues impacting our lives?” I befriended the organizer and brainstormed methods and creative approaches to sincerely engage people of color in the discussions from a place of value, dignity and appreciation. I scrutinized her social media reach from a social network analysis approach and decided to share the post on my social media sites, hoping to increase participation from the populations I believe are most impacted by food deserts, food insecurity, poor food quality and the inequities of resource distribution as a whole. I was surprised to find of the hundreds of local Black and Brown people on my social media contacts, none had registered to join the discussion.

I was confused and decided to consult the people in my network. I discussed the lack of participation with my closest friends and confidants. It was shared with me that community discussions around necessities such as food are considered a privilege that many Black and Brown people don’t believe they have the luxury to discuss, because they are in the world struggling to feed their families. I write with the hope of reframing the lens of discussions around food. I challenge Black, Brown, poor and oppressed people to participate: because we simply cannot afford not to contribute to the discourse around food. People are suffering greatly in our community due to food insecurity. When discussions occur that may impact decision making and policies, it is often the case that the people most impacted are silenced or ignored. In this case, that is not the situation. The previously, “under-heard” are especially welcome to attend. That being said, I believe it behooves individuals struggling to afford or access fresh, nutrient rich food to come on Sunday and share their stories. By doing so, you will be advocating for the changes that we so urgently need to see occur in our community.

Community dialogues are not just a tool of the privilege, or a tool of oppression to pacify the masses, but have the potential to engage, document and amplify the voices of the often unheard, ignored and silenced. Food Justice is a critical issue in our community, and it significantly impacts our neighbors’ lives and health outcomes. I believe an inclusive and diverse discussion around food, family and culture like this one is relevant and critical to the proper development of our community.

You may come and share, but will you really be heard? I am very familiar with and respect the methodology being used in Sunday’s community conversation, and have been asked to serve as a table host for the table discussions. The facilitation technique to be used, Art of Hosting, recognizes that our problems are too complex for a hero leader to solve and that we must all come together to craft solutions to our most difficult problems. Solutions will come as we continue to come together in safe spaces like this one and build relationships with others.

I believe that this event represents a unique opportunity for the Black voice be heard on this important topic. At this event, all personal stories shared will be audio recorded and some people will be invited to have their stories video recorded. A team of scholars will study the stories shared for themes. Additionally, some of what is shared will be captured through graphic recording, a note-taking technique that puts what is said into simple, easy to understand visuals that lend themselves to being shared on social media.

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I humbly encourage people of color and the disenfranchised to join the conversation tomorrow, this Sunday, July 24th from noon to 2 p.m. at Northampton Community College’s Fowler Center at 511 E. 3rd Street, Bethlehem. Please come and share your voice, document your story, fight for equity and advocate accountability for the basic human need for sustenance. Your participation can have a big impact throughout the Lehigh Valley.  For more information:

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Hasshan Batts was invited to be a guest blogger on this blog.

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Hasshan is a Social Worker with the Neighborhood Health Centers of the Lehigh Valley (, Director of Training and Education for Practitioners Research and Scholarship Institute (; board member of Resurrected Community Development Corporation, founding board member of the Lehigh Valley Social Impact Center and 2015-2016 Rider-Pool Collective Impact Action Learning Fellow in Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

Hasshan Batts is also a consultant, inspirational speaker and life coach. He is a survivor, healer, son, father and friend. For more information, go to:

You can do it ALL this Sunday!


You can do it all this Sunday!

You’ve probably heard that there’s a big event going on about food at SteelStacks…   Taste: a celebration of farms and food.   This is a great opportunity to support local farms and local food between noon and 4 p.m.  Lynn Prior of Buy Fresh Buy Local has been working hard to make this a fantastic experience and we encourage you to support it.

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In concert with this event, for those who understand that there are issues with our food systems and appreciate the power of personal narrative to move mountains, RenewLV has been working with Northampton Community College to organize a community conversation on the topic of food, “Getting into the Kitchen.”

We believe that open-hearted story-telling in a safe space among people of different cultural backgrounds is critical to building relationships, increasing empathy, creating community healing and ultimately solving our most challenging community problems.  Joining us for this next discussion is a proactive step that you can take in this direction.  After past discussions like this, participants have said that they connected to people and made new friends.  Please join us on Sunday.

Please reserve your seat today at 

The aim of this discussion is to collect “Food Stories” rich with the flavors and textures of your family and culture.

The community conversation will take place from 12:15 to 2 p.m., with registration starting at noon at the NCC Fowler Center at 511 E. 3rd Street, Bethlehem — just a block from the Taste event!

You can do both.  You can do it all.

Come join us at the Fowler Center at noon, for the guided conversation about food, family, community and culture.  Then head over to the Taste event.

Our discussion is part of a six-month project, Food in the Public Square,, an exploration of the local food supply coordinated by Northampton Community College in conjunction with RenewLV, Second Harvest Food Bank, the Hispanic Center, BuyFresh,BuyLocal Lehigh Valley, and the Penn State Agricultural Extension.unnamed (1)

As such, we are collecting “Food Stories” from people like you.   We think you have a story and we’d love to hear it.

All participants will have their story captured with a audio recorder.   Some will be captured by video.  If you’re wondering what this might look like…here are three short (60-90 second) videos of Food Stories from the last event:

Marylou Seixas from the Southside of Bethlehem spoke about cross-generational cooking.

CACLV’s own Javier Torros shared his insight regarding food and cultural preservation.

As many of you know, food access and security are issues with too many people in the Lehigh Valley.  Hasshan Batts, social worker and inspirational speaker “Coach Batts” shared his thoughts on the topic.

We want to hear the “Food Stories” most precious to you, your family, your community and your culture.  After the event a team of scholars from area colleges and universities will see how your story fits within the larger intellectual conversations focusing on food policy and food justice.  That’s when the mountains can start to move.

Please join us at noon at the Fowler Center and then come to the Taste event at nearby SteelStacks.  Other food related activities you can enjoy after the discussion include cooking demonstrations, tastings, children’s activities, the screening of two movies:  “What’s on Your Plate”( 2 p.m.) and “Plant This Movie” (3:45), as well as “Food Poetics” workshops led by award-winning poet Marilyn Hazelton for both children and adults.  It’s going to be fun!

There is no charge for the community conversation, but space is limited.  Reserve your spot today:

Native Spanish-speaking individuals who feel more comfortable speaking in their native tongue will be able to share their stories in Spanish as we will have native Spanish-speaking table hosts.

Refreshments will be served, thanks to donations by Giant and Fresh Market grocery stores.

If you want to learn more about this project, go to the website at: Food in the Public Square – The Collective Human Experience

You’re Invited to a Community Conversation about Food, Family, and Culture: “Getting into the Kitchen”


Kelly Allen of Northampton Community College has asked me to reach out to you with an invitation for your participation in a free Community Conversation on Sunday, July 24th at 12:15 p.m.

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Kelly and a dynamic team of scholars and community partners invite you to an exciting Community Conversation, “Getting into the Kitchen.” This interactive conversation will take place at Northampton Community College’s Fowler Center at 511 East 3rd Street on Bethlehem’s Southside. This represents the second in a three-part conversation as part of the six-month “Food in the Public Square” project that launched in May of this year, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The aim with this project will be to collect “food stories,” rich with the flavors of “your” family and culture.

While Sunday’s event will be facilitated by academics and community organizers, the information gathered and assessed will come directly from you and the other the participants.

The goal of these conversations is to learn about and capture the food culture of the Lehigh Valley. What are the food decisions we make and how are they influenced by who or what we are? We have wonderful ethnic food traditions tied to our food, but often these meals are time consuming to prepare. This conversation, “Getting into the Kitchen” will also ask, “Who’s in the kitchen?”

To see how we have captured food stories from a previous community conversation,13325740_10153923735529093_6440831049553915667_n

Marylou Seixas, resident of South Bethlehem shares her cross-generational family food stories.  Click here to see her video story on YouTube

Rather than use our scholars as an authority to disseminate information, we are looking to you for the wisdom. The scholars create the questions to provoke discussion:

  • Given the demands of modern life and families with two working parents, how are you handling the preparation of our meals, especially those important foods or meals connected to our heritage?
  • How have your eating and cooking practices changed between childhood and adulthood? Why?
  • How do you make your food choices with regard to food preparation?
  • Do you have certain food preparation rituals? Please describe them and the roles played by your various family members.

We want to hear the stories most precious to you, your family and your culture. What you share will be recorded through audio and video. After the event, the scholars will figure out how your stories fit within the larger intellectual conversations focusing on food policy and food justice.

At the event Kelly Allen, a Northampton Community College professor who is managing this project, will explain what this project will accomplish and why this discussion is important.

You can reserve your spot at the table here .

“If you want to learn more about the Taste event, organized by Buy Fresh Buy Local of the Greater Lehigh Valley, go to their website.

We hope to see you Sunday, July 24th at the Fowler Center at 511 East 3rd Street (6th floor) on Bethlehem’s Southside. We want to hear your story.

“If you want to learn more about this project: follow this link to the Food in the Public Square website

We hope to see you Sunday, May 20th at the Fowler Center at 511 East 3rd Street (6th floor) on Bethlehem’s Southside. We want to hear your story.

Here’s the whole day’s schedule:

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