Woke Foods is a women owned food service cooperative THAT TAPS INTO THE healing traditions of Dominican and other afro-caribbean food TO CREATE RECIPES, HOST COOKING CLASSES, teach workshops, AND CATER EVENTS.
What is WOKE? Woke is a state of consciousness that allows us to understand how politics influences our personal lives. Woke Foods believes mindful eating and ancestral foods is a way to keep our cultural traditions alive. Our food is influenced by the flavors of the Dominican Republic, and prepared with plant-based ingredients -- in other words: no meat. We are a socially conscious, sustainable green food business. We use food as a tool to leverage our political and spiritual power. Sourcing our ingredients from local New York community gardens and farms, using earth-friendly materials, composting our waste, and running as a worker-owned cooperative, is how we create economic power and commit to our community and Mother Earth.
Woke Foods Timeline
2015 - Ysanet Batista and Merelis Catalina Ortiz, Woke Foods founders, meet at a women's circle gathering in Washington Heights.
2016 - Ysanet Batista quit her non-profit job to focus more on work that addressed racism and systems of oppression, shortly after Woke Foods was born. Ysanet who had been cooking for most of her life and at the same time have dived into community organizing, began to see the intersection of food, health, and race, and how our current food system was negatively impacting the health of our black and brown communities. While living in Washington Heights in the apartment of her friend Heidi Maria Lopez, she started preparing foods to address these issues by offering food that was healthy and culturally relevant in the form of meal planning and catering. Woke Foods truly began to take shape with the advice, input, and word of mouth marketing of Ysanet’s close friends like Heidi Maria Lopez, Luis Tapia, and Merelis Catalina Ortiz. As Woke Foods was embraced by Washington Heights and South Bronx, the need for this work became increasingly apparent and necessary. When the opportunity to enroll in Green Workers Cooperative Co-op Academy, a development program that guides and aides people of color to launch cooperative businesses, Ysanet reached out to two potential business partners to grow the business into a worker coop, Merelis Catalina Ortiz and Claudia Mena. Claudia had worked with Ysanet at NYC Farmers Market and has successfully launched a juicing business. They started coop academy and learned about Ysanet’s goals for Woke Foods and found their values were aligned in many ways and wanted to be a part of growing the business.
2017 - Woke Foods graduated from Green Workers Cooperative’ Co-op Academy, and formed as a green cooperative business. This piece is important to Woke Foods because the business is part of a movement that is much larger than themselves. A movement working towards food sovereignty (where all people exercise the right to control our own food systems), building a strong local economy within the Bronx and Northern Manhattan rooted in democracy and environmental justice.
2018 - Woke Foods was accepted into the incubator commercial kitchen, Hot Bread Kitchen in East Harlem AND received a loan from The Working World. Claudia Mena and Merelis Catalina Ortiz have moved on to do other work within food movement and wellness. However, much of the development, experimentation, and success of the business and vision is attributed to the collective work of Claudia, Merelis, Ysanet + their friends & family.
2019 - Woke Foods is run by Ysanet Batista, Frances Perez-Rodriguez, Maya Reyes, and Raina Robinson - 4 women of color. They have catered for events at non-profits, grassroots organization, social justice conferences, and even the wedding of two beloved community organizers! Recently, they were awarded a grant by Citizens Committee for New York City, to offer free cooking classes for people living in affordable housing in NYC. Woke Foods has been featured on Harlem Focus via Medium, Blavity and Vibe Viva and has been named NYC’s first Dominican vegan food business.