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Sunday, March 31, 2024

Meet the Black Mom Turned Food Justice Advocate Championing for Healthier Communities

Tambra Raye Stevenson

NationwideTambra Raye Stevenson, a determined mother in Washington, DC, has emerged as a champion for fighting for healthier communities with the Food Bill of Rights. Inspired by the former First Lady Michelle Obama, a mom who committed herself to improving our children’s diets with the Let’s Move Initiative, reignited Tambra’s passion for food justice and planted the seed in founding WANDA: Women Advancing Nutrition Dietetics and Agriculture.

Tambra’s journey is deeply rooted in her personal history with her late father, Calvin C. Hill, Jr., who advocated for healthy eating and volunteered at the election board as a firefighter in Oklahoma. Still, his dreams were cut short by a tragic motorcycle accident. However, she inherited his passion for healthy food and public service.

Tambra has transcended her struggles to champion food justice on the frontlines, inspiring a movement of women and girls from the African diaspora. Her work sheds light on the intersection of food, culture, and representation, shifting the narrative that African heritage foods and our women can improve the health of our communities. Her advocacy underscores a profound truth: the fight against diet-related diseases is not just a battle for individual well-being but a collective struggle for the soul of our communities. Though it’s a battle that affects both men and women, Black women are bearing the brunt of a metabolic health crisis, Tambra’s message resonates with sharp clarity as the founder of WANDA.

When Tambra’s daughter experienced her first cavity at just four years old, it served as a wake-up call. She initiated a conversation with her daughter’s teacher, also a mother, advocating to eliminate junk food rewards in the classroom. This pivotal moment underscored the importance of not only changing policies but also empowering everyday individuals to build healthier communities through access to nutritious food. Through WANDA, Tambra aims to transform women and girls into nutrition champions through education and advocacy.

Dr. Gail C. Christopher, Executive Director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, recognizes the significance of Tambra’s work. She states, “This framework [of the Food Bill of Rights] provides a holistic declaration and fosters a comprehensive understanding of the power of food to create health and well-being at the individual and societal levels. It is a breakthrough contribution and will catalyze transformational work to achieve food justice.” She is writing a book about empowering people and enforcing our values of a right to food in this country by adopting the Food Bill of Rights locally and nationally.

Tambra calls on everyday people to challenge the status quo, reclaim their power, and demand political candidates support better food policy for our communities. Her impactful advocacy resonates deeply with leaders like Karen Washington, a James Beard award-winning farmer who commends Stevenson for her dedication to justice and equity.

“Tambra Raye Stevenson is an acclaimed nutritionist, bringing her expertise and personal experience to the forefront,” says Washington. “Stevenson advocates for people to reclaim a food system grounded in justice, bounded by equity, and recognizes the collective power of people. The future of our food system is in the balance, the time is now.” Her contributions shape the discourse and lay the groundwork for a food system rooted in justice, equity, and health.

After her historic achievement as the first African American woman to graduate with a Master of Arts in Media, Technology, and Democracy from American University, Tambra conducted a national Food Democracy survey, which revealed overwhelming support for a Food Bill of Rights among Americans.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed. From the classrooms of American University, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. in Communication focusing on Black women’s health, to the halls of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, Tambra’s passion, dedication, and vision inspire us. She imagines a world where every family, and every child, can thrive in a landscape of abundance, health, and justice. This narrative of empowerment and resilience underscores the transformative power of advocacy in creating a better, healthier world for future generations.

“Tambra’s dissertation directly ties to her passion for research with real-world impact, including for the empowerment of Black women. Her work is powerful in part for how she bridges the fields of health and communication,” says Dr. Benjamin Stokes, Associate Professor at American University School of Communication. When Black women lead the charge in understanding and advocating for food justice, the ripple effects can nourish and transform the entire family, given their role as the primary purchasers of food.

Hailing from Oklahoma, Tambra’s journey began with a childhood fascination with food. She studied nutrition at Oklahoma State University, where she established an endowed scholarship program to support women in food, agriculture, and nutrition. She expanded the WANDA scholarship program for women in Northern Nigeria where she traced her roots to the Fulani people. Stevenson’s work is rooted in a deep appreciation for food, culture, and community interconnectedness.

Tambra’s journey is more than one of resilience as she continues to weave her legacy into the fabric of our society. From adversity to advocacy, she serves as a testament to the power of our ancestors, the importance of community, and the unyielding spirit of those who dare to dream of a better, healthier world for future generations.

To learn more about her movement, WANDA, visit IamWanda.org

Also, be sure to follow Tambra on Instagram @TambraRaye

For press inquiries or media interviews, contact hello@iamwanda.org