Community Food Co-Op
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Board Candidate: Kamea Black

What skills and qualities do you have that uniquely qualify you for the Board of Directors, and why do you want to run for the Board?

From seed to plate, I have a decade of direct experience in our local food system. Academically, I remain chronically curious about the social and economic circumstances that direct consumer habits. I have labored in your fields, farmers' markets, restaurants, and check stand lines during the onset of the pandemic. I grew up in rural food deserts and remain in awe of the social infrastructure that continues to uphold access to local food.
My current and past positions allow me to have a broad understanding of how the work being done to enhance the resilience of our local food system impacts policy and consumers alike. If elected to serve, I will apply insight from the diversity of my experience and enhance the connection between the Whatcom Food Network, Whatcom County Food System Plan, and the Community Food Co-op.

Choose one of the seven goals of the Co-op strategic plan and briefly talk about what interests you and what you could contribute to its development.

I see Local Food System Development as absolutely crucial to the health of Whatcom County because it touches everyone. A food system is an interconnected web that moves food from seed to plate to waste. It includes waterways and land, fishers, farmers, distributors, manufacturers and processors, retailers, and individual consumers. At each point in the chain, there is labor and the opportunity to increase the quality of life for anyone in our county.
Food is a space for me where I can see with a lot of clarity where systems of power show up: on the plate and in my body. This is where I feel the most empowered to practice divesting from oppressive social systems such as patriarchy and white supremacy.
As a current food system professional with a position at the Whatcom Food Network, I have a lot of knowledge to share about what is being done to strengthen local food systems development currently. I see the Community Food Co-op as a key component in the success of these efforts. If elected, I will help the co-op be a part of leading and strengthening these same efforts.

Think about a situation that demonstrates your ability to create a climate that values cultural diversity. How would you encourage sharing different perspectives?

When we think about diversity in any environment, it is important to notice harmful outcomes and figure out how to address them systematically. One such instance in my working life was when I worked at WWU as a grant program coordinator. After studying the outcomes of where funds were being allocated, I went to my supervisor with a concern about a pattern I noticed of grants written by students of color not reaching their fully funded potential. With this information, I was hoping to create more support for these student projects on a programmatic level because I see this as far more impactful than anything I could do as a lone staff member.
It isn’t always safe for someone to share their unique perspectives especially in board rooms or within institutions. While I do make every effort to be an active listener to everyone in the room, I think it is just as important to notice the absence of voice. When I was a young adult, I took a job on a Whatcom County farm where in the field I was one of the only English speakers. I will never forget the hilarity of the charades as I tried to understand my instructions, nor the way none of my Spanish-speaking seniors accompanied me to the farmer's markets.
A true culture of true diversity works to move beyond a framework of simple inclusion and towards one of belonging.

What do you believe are the Co-op’s greatest strengths?

1 ) A little known fact about me is that the Co-op played a role in my family's decision to make Bellingham home. It was one of the first spaces here where my queer family members felt safe shopping or hanging out to wait for a bus. We couldn’t afford to do all our shopping there, but we still frequented the space. While there is still room to expand the culture of safety at the co-op, I hold the efforts we are doing toward inclusivity with gratitude.
2) It is a huge asset to have access to a community-owned grocery store. The co-ops' continued investment in local farms and ability to offer high-quality produce is a significant contributor to the well-being of our county.

Describe any experience you have in reading and understanding financial statements.

My main experience is in managing the financial statements of my own business, Tasty Salty Real. Beyond that, I have experience reviewing statements from my time on the board of the Bellingham Farmers Market as well as my own personal finances.

Describe the experience, skills, or knowledge you have working with any or all of the following:

One prime example in my work was when I co-led a project to fund a non-student staff position for the Outback Farm at WWU. This project took a lot of active member participation across stakeholder groups to garner the support needed for its success.This work stood as justification for a $130k grant, and remains an active project at the institution.
As the admin coordinator of the Whatcom Food Network, I am responsible for facilitating the leadership steering committee meetings.The broader membership of the organization hasn’t been very active recently, but the board has plans to conduct more convening events in 2023. Other non-profit board experience includes serving on the Bellingham Farmers Market Board as Secretary, and attendance of board meetings while I was a staff member at Northwest Youth Services.

Describe your connections with the community, including volunteer work if applicable.

Professionally, my strongest connection to community in Bellingham is in social justice work and the local food and farming scene. I am sure several co-op members recall watching me come of age as I vended weekly at the Bellingham Farmers Market for many years as their tea girl, herbal apprentice, and behind the scene farmhand.
My 13 years in Bellingham hold a long history of volunteer work. The most infamous being my years coordinating the succession of Thrillingham (a free-to-the-public Halloween event) that raised funds for the Women Care Shelter and Bellingham Food Bank. My time has also been lent to the Bellingham Farmers Market, Sustainable Connections, as well as local events such as April Brews Day, Skagit Farm to Pint, and many small local music events.
In more recent years I have thoroughly enjoyed being involved with Western Washington University’s Community Engagement Fellows program. I have served on the planning committee for the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center’s annual International Day of Peace and remain close with members of their board.
As a component of my food systems studies, I was on the coordination team of WWU’s Outback Farm for 2.5 years. I have flourished under the mentorship of Roslyn Mcnicholl, and will always hold Rabbit Fields Farm as my second home. I am currently the admin coordinator of the Whatcom Food Network and this is rapidly connecting me to systems conveners involved in both grassroot and governmental processes that aim to make our food system more resilient.
My current focus is on telling as many folks as I can about the drafted Whatcom County Food System Plan. At the time of this application, my most recent effort towards this end was presenting at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Conference on the subject.

Describe any business or entrepreneurial experience you have.

I currently run my own small business that helps people create better relationships with food. My main services are my 1:1 home cooking tutoring program and private as well as community-focused classes. I write a blog-style newsletter on Substack and co-produce Thyme to Chat podcast with local chef Rose Tomlin.
Prior to this work, I was a partner in a family-owned tea company: Misfits Bliss.

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