Oakland's People's Kitchen Collective serves free morning meals to the masses

Credit: Photo by Sana Javeri Kadri

Raise a slice of buttered toast: People's Kitchen Collective are Extra Crispy's 2018 Best Breakfast Chefs of the Year. (Read up on 2017 and 2016's honorees.)

Fighting for justice is tough, long, grueling work, and the best way to tackle it is with a nourishing breakfast in your stomach. Sita Bhaumik, Jocelyn Jackson, and Saqib Keval—the trio of chefs, activists, and artists behind Oakland's People's Kitchen Collective—have made it their mission to ensure that the needs of the people in their community are served, and it starts with a shared morning meal. Inspired by the Black Panther Party's pioneering Free Breakfast for Schoolchildren program, which fed 20,000 children in 19 cities around the US every school day by the end of 1969, PKC began serving free breakfasts of their own in 2011 just a few blocks from St. Augustine’s Church where the BPP kicked off their program. The breakfasts have taken place two or three times a year in DeFremery Park (a.k.a. Lil Bobby Hutton Park, named for the first BPP member), feed 500 to 800 people, and are largely crowdfunded by like-minded souls and done in partnership with other community organizations. The most recent breakfast took place in October as part of the annual Life is Living festival presented by Youth Speaks, and featured grits, greens, and a whole lot of art and community.

Credit: Photo by Sana Javeri Kadri

Keval started People's Kitchen about 11 years ago and the Collective officially formed when Bhaumik and Jackson joined about three years ago. Keval says that each of them came from a background of working at the intersection of food, art and activism and they were "drawn to working together."

"Sita and Jocelyn are both very accomplished chefs and artists," Keval told Extra Crispy. "It was an absolute dream when we started cooking together as People's Kitchen Collective. We were brought together by our shared belief in the radical possibility of food as a means to create social change."

Credit: Photo by Fox Nakai

In addition to the free breakfast events, the Collective offers what they "food-centered political education projects that engage peoples in social movements." Those come in different forms: a series of public meals (called "From the FARM, to the KITCHEN, to the TABLE, to the STREETS!") that explores the community's food practices and stories; public speaking and educational events designed to "build solidarity across race, class, nationality, and gender"; and partnerships with cultural institutions to create hands-on exhibitions that "engage the social politic and potential of food." In this nexus of hospitality, food, art, history, expression, and conversation lies change.

And this change can't happen without dollars. Keval notes that people can donate to PKC directly via their website, and by following along via Facebook and Instagram to find out about upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.