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Ground Breaking: Pittsburgh Yards Brings Healthy Eating to Southwest Atlanta

The venue will help food entrepreneurs operating from Pittsburgh yards, as well as people in the area wanting to learn, develop, and create food concepts for the market.

In his remarks made before the groundbreaking event, Chef Kev noted that his grandmother started this organization to help people in the community via a feeding program at the church. When she passed away in 2004, my mother took on the mantle, extended the program, and continued feeding the people. Around 2015, my mother suggested that I take on the role of running the organization. We re-located the “Helping Hands Ministry” from Missouri to Atlanta and changed its name to the Urban Oak Initiatives. I’ve been a chef for nearly thirty years but have never advocated for people to be healthier eaters. I saw the state of the community, and it moved me to become a voice for change. We put the word out, and this enabled us to work with the “Annie E. Casey Foundation,” which got us into Pittsburgh Yards. When we have access to everything, it then comes down to our mindset when approaching food and how much self-control we can exercise.

In a forum conversation with Kelli Jones at the groundbreaking event, she explained that the name of her business was “404 Coffee,” which reflects the local area. She said that Pittsburgh Yards will bring more people to the area, and other local businesses will also benefit from its presence. Chef Kev chimed in and stated that Pittsburgh Yards aims to also uplift and help bring healthy food to the area. The aim is to change how food is seen, which results in a change in both the outlook and health outcomes for the wider community. Mrs. Jones stated that she realized that healthy eating held strong benefits after seeing the struggles of her best friend, who has since passed away. My friend’s health issues were adversely affected by her food choices. I started going to the doctor with her, and we worked through the challenges of food options. After going through all of this, I knew I had to make some changes in my life and also help those around me in the best way that I could. She said, “I have been in business for a few years and have a handle on the things that appeal to the community, but the area is now transitioning, and the demands may become different. We are going to keep pushing and letting them know that being healthy is an option and tastes just as good.”

Chef Kev says in his conversation piece that the seniors have been the most open to trying healthy food options. There is a senior center in “People’s Towns,” and every time that we visit, they ask when we will be bringing back the barbecue tofu. In the South, Black folks have a taste preference. We don’t do too much humus. When we get the texture of tofu right, then people are good; it’s just food to them. Some of the seniors disclosed that their doctors have talked to them about health issues, and those conversations raised their consciousness about what they eat. If they’re at the senior center, then that means that they’re a little more engaged and are pushing for the quality of life that they can get, and that means that they tend to be more open-minded and willing to give healthy eating options a try. The thing about food is that, most of the time, the result of eating it is instant. If it’s good or bad food, you will know it as soon as you swallow.

At the groundbreaking ceremony, Haylene the Garden Queen, one of the groundbreakers, said, “I have been waiting for this groundbreaking event for a long time, and I am glad that I am still alive to see this happen. I was one of the first businesses in this building. We have big plans for this community. We want to be an example. This venture has been a long time coming, and it will put this venue and area on the map.”

Kweku Forstall from the Annie Casey Foundation stated that they were investors in Pittsburg Yards. He explained that this location opened in the summer of twenty-twenty, and we always had this space reserved for a food studio, and we were so thrilled to meet Chef Kev. This was a marriage made in heaven. Pittsburg Yards is about creating opportunity and connecting with people. The opportunity here is to support the community in creating healthy eating habits. He explained that the Casey Foundation is about supporting thriving communities. This opening represents a wonderful addition to both the neighborhood and this building, as this community was founded by formerly enslaved people back in 1880.

General contractor Michael Hachett said, “This is Chef Kev’s first groundbreaking, but it is not his last.”

In his closing remarks, Chef Kev said, “You hear the term ancestry quite a lot, but this is something that was given to me by my ancestors. We know the value of our ancestors, but we don’t use it a lot. I think that this is a moment that allows us to connect to our culinary culture, and that is our key focus. Imagine a future for this neighborhood when there are more people eating plant-based food and living healthier lives. We can leave a smile on the faces of our ancestors.”

Last updated on July 8, 2024

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