Our Truth: An introduction to Jo’Vonna Johnson Cooke

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MaituFoods at Georgia State University Farmers Market. Summer 2014

I began my journey working in food abundance systems in early 2005, through necessity. A complete amateur in the process of growing food, I had been studying nutrition and healing through medicinal herbs and foods since late 2001. As is most often the case my studies came from a standpoint of wanting to heal and do for others and yet I found myself still practicing lifestyle and eating habits that were contradictory to what I was studying. I was well acquainted with the adage “healer, heal thyself” and in 2005, I would get the opportunity to practice what I was preaching. Although a vegan for several years and a big proponent and practitioner of physical exercise at this point, I found myself overstressed and overworked and the toil was effecting my health. Plagued with fatigue, restlessness, a diet with little to no nutrition and laden with vegan “processed” food alternatives, I went to my doctor and discovered that I also had developed cysts. I got to work immediately, intent on never taking a drug or any prescribed medicine for healing a condition that I myself had developed through my choices. So I began to use my own body as a laboratory to see if I could heal myself naturally of all of my ailments.

Living in an urban area, I started a potted herb garden on my balcony, began juicing and eating living foods and eradicating certain practices and lifestyle habits from my routine. Needless to say although I completely failed at my first attempts at gardening, the intent would be rewarded soon. Eventually through cleanses and lifestyle changes I would eventually heal myself of all cysts and reset my body to one of health. It was during this time period that I would also meet the owners of Truly Living Well Farms and begin my journey in properly growing food and personally cultivating the foods to heal my body. I started as a volunteer on the farm and instantly fell deeply in love with the process of working with Nature. I would spend hours on a task completely immersed. It was through this process that my life completely changed and my view of myself within the larger scheme of Creation shifted.10806197_1572172436333251_4912503119631904317_n I realized how healing this work was, how it also connected me, not only to the Earth, but to millions of people worldwide through expanses of time. It was like I had arrived in the world, like I had just began to live and to know.

Years later, I would marry one of the founders of the Farm and as we were expecting our first child, I had to determine what I would do to support my growing family and also stay true to all that I was learning and had the opportunity to experience while farming. This time period is when MaituFoods began its development. In a lot of ways it was a twin to our first child as they both developed together and one grew out of the other. MaituFoods was established in early 2008 when we recognized a need for a healthy lunch option for our neighborhood private school. Working with parents and staff we established a Vegan School Lunch Program. From that first school we would go on to establish the program in 4 more private schools within the West End Atlanta Community.

A meal from MaituFoods

A meal from MaituFoods

To date MaituFoods has served over 50 children, many of whom have very little access to healthy fresh food and come from 40% of families below the poverty rate. By virtue of demand MaituFoods working with community members and professionals would go on to establish our Family Meals program and then our Mother’s Meals program where we provide meals for Pregnant and Postpartum Mothers and their families.

The word Maitu comes from the Kikuyu language of East Africa. It’s the word for mother, however the literal translation is Maa( truth) itu (our) “our truth”. As an entity MaituFoods is one part of the Grow Where You Are family, a grower led collective working together to establish a local food abundance system and economy. Moreover, we are re-establishing and maintaining a healthy food culture with respect and reverence to nature and the process of growing and serving food. MaituFoods has a mission to honor food rituals as a real place within the scheme of civilization and good, healthy, nutritious food for families and children is at the forefront of that mission.

As a service, MaituFoods, is a community based Vegan Meal provider. We provide meals for our clients who include community members and families with special dietary needs. We have special food programs and packages for pregnant and postpartum mothers and their families as well as programs catered towards children. Fall09 036As a mother now with two children, both of whom are under the age of six, I realize the importance of nutrition and implementing healthy dietary practices within the family from the very beginning. It’s a day to day discipline to ensure that our children not only have proper nutrition but are informed of its benefits, even at an early age. It is our belief that with proper education and application we can begin to utilize our communities and home spaces to restore and re-establish health within our families. With the proper tools, food deserts can become thriving food oases and we believe that the knowledge starts with the Mothers and begins in the womb. Since 2008, MaituFoods has served over 1,920 vegan school lunches to children ranging in age from 2-16yrs and an average of 936 vegan family meals supplementing meals for over 45 families.

MaituFoods along with the other facets of the Grow Where You Are Collective is working to respect our duty to serve the Earth and Humanity utilizing the bounty of Earth and following the blueprint set by Nature of abundance and efficiency. We understand that we are endowed with all that we need to be fulfilled on this planet and Mother Earth provides us with the sustenance. It is a part of our personal mission to not only say it, but express it, share it and show a way to draw out this sentiment within communities through our contribution of service, practical experiences and tangible goods . Healthy, viable, functioning communities are not only a possibility but the highest potential. Working together we can achieve that goal and the conversation starts at the kitchen table.

Maybe the most sacred space in your home is not the yoga room, or the altar with the candle, or the chair by the window where you meditate and pray. Maybe the most sacred room in your house is the kitchen. Painting: Tamalada by Carmen Lomas Garza, from her website http://carmenlomasgarza.com/

Maybe the most sacred space in your home is not the yoga room, or the altar with the candle, or the chair by the window where you meditate and pray. Maybe the most sacred room in your house is the kitchen.

Painting: Tamalada by Carmen Lomas Garza, from her website http://carmenlomasgarza.com/

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