Ysanet Batista started out with $200 when she launched Woke Foods the summer of 2016 in Washington Heights, New York.
The food cooperative provides a variety of services including catering, cooking classes and meal planning to the Washington Heights community. Woke Foods also serves as a monthly meeting place for chefs of color to meet, exchange recipes and teach one another about their respective culture. To Batista, what we eat is just as important as where the food comes from.
“I want people in my community to understand that food is political even though we don’t see it that way. We vote with our dollars,” she told Harlem Focus. “Farmers of color are constantly being exploited in our food system here and in my island. People need to stay woke about their food.”
The traditional meat-based Dominican cuisine is given a brand new twist with Batista's vegetarian ingredients. Throughout her college years, Batista experimented with traditional Dominican dishes like sancocho, asopao, kipes, and pasteles without meat serving as the essential ingredient.
“I thought making the food I grew up eating vegetarian would be impossible. But my mentor Jeseli Soto and my grandmother demonstrated to me it wasn’t.”
The young activist wants to do more than just provide healthy alternatives to Dominican staples. She is in the process of crowdfunding to purchase farm land and equipment in her native Dominican Republic. Batista hopes the land will provide her the freedom to use clean ingredients for her new business.