What do you do when food options in your community include fast food chains and liquor stores? If you're GW Chew, you open an all-vegan food restaurant next door to the McDonalds.
Chew, or "Chef Chew" as he goes by, is the founder of The Veg Hub in Oakland, California. Opened in 2016, the vegan restaurant is a nonprofit born to bring affordable, plant-based comfort foods to East Oakland—an area that could be considered a food desert. Chew also offers cooking demonstrations and supports community events at The Veg Hub—a place where food like he cooks didn't yet have a presence.
Four years later, the McDonalds has shuttered but The Veg Hub stands strong and became what Chef Chew says is a blessing for the community.
"The way we eat in this country is 100% a social justice issue," Chew says in a video from last year by mercyforanimals.org. He explains how areas like Oakland, which has been experiencing gentrification in recent years, is a prime example of the connection between food access, meat consumption and health outcomes in Black communities throughout the United States.
Chew is also the founder of Something Better Foods, a plant-based protein product company. His approach to his brand: Meet people where they're at and give them food they're used to eating. This approach led Something Better Foods to win the Natural Products Expo East Pitch Slam in 2018.
As a Black man, Chef Chew stands out in the natural products industry. He also knows that the places his products are sold, like Whole Foods Market, is not where his friends and family buy their groceries. He recognizes there's much more work to be done around food equity, starting with addressing issues of racism in our broader communities.
Chew is leading a conversation on racism in food on Wednesday, June 24 as part of the American Sustainable Business Council’s Race and Equity Dialogue Event.
He'll also be delivering the keynote address at the Nutrition Capital Network’s Spring Investor Meeting on June 30.
Watch this video to hear Chew explain how systemic racism and food deserts are intertwined.