by Minister of Information JR Valrey, Oakland Bureau Chief
I was recently on a panel at the Brava Theater in San Francisco, organized by Kehinde Koyejo, when I first met and heard San Francisco native Rachel Bolden, author of “My Food Stamps Cookbook.”
I was intrigued by the way she broke through the stereotype that being on a budget meant that people had to eat relatively unhealthy food. I liked the way Rachel wrote a book on how she had mastered and flipped how to use the welfare system, a system that historically has been used by the government of the United States to break up the Black family, to actually strengthen her family’s health. Through her book and public speaking she is sharing crucial information for those of us to utilize immediately, those of us still dependent or partially dependent on government assistance.
This is a perfect example of somebody from the hood gaining a skill, then coming back to make sure that the rest of us who want to know how to move similarly, can. Check out Rachel Bolden as she talks about her book.
JR Valrey: What is “My Food Stamps Cookbook” about, and what inspired you to write it?
Rachel Bolden: I was inspired to change the statistic that the longer a person receives food stamps, the worse their health becomes. I healed from trauma in food stamps and wanted to reframe the program as an asset rather than stigmatize the recipients.
JR Valrey: By you writing a book like this, what statement are you making about cookbooks, food and class?
Rachel Bolden: I was told by agents and publishers that my book idea would not sell because people on food stamps don’t buy books. I was appalled by this statement.
I wanted to explore the complexities of class by highlighting the many kinds of people who have and will use the food stamp program such as college students, parents and even Ph.D. candidates. I also wanted to dispel myths about the food stamps program, which was initially created to support single white mothers.
JR Valrey: How has the community responded so far to the book? How long has it been out?
Rachel Bolden: The book came out in 2017 and has been a catalyst for my work in the community as a health leader.
JR Valrey: How did you learn to employ the tactics that you wrote about, beyond being impoverished?
Rachel Bolden: I spent a lot of my life living well below the poverty line. I also had a debilitating disability, and working within the social welfare system of the United States is a skill I learned to master.
JR Valrey: What inspired you to share the game?
Rachel Bolden: I want my people to heal and have the best lives possible. I believe our health is our self-determination.
JR Valrey: Did you put “My Food Stamps Cookbook” out independently? What is the story behind that?
Rachel Bolden: Agents and publishers were pessimistic about the title.
JR Valrey: Are you still promoting it? If so, how?
Rachel Bolden: I sell my book online through my website and Amazon, and in some community food justice organizations. It is available for purchase at the African African American Art and Culture Complex store at 762 Fulton Street in San Francisco.
JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau and is founder of his latest project, the Ministry of Information Podcast. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Instagram.