Changemaker Voices: Robin Hernandez of Crossroads Community Food Network

Eat the Change

Crossroads Community Food Network is building a healthier, more inclusive food system in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads, a primarily immigrant and low-income community just north of Washington, DC. Crossroads supports a broad network of food growers, makers, and consumers. At the heart of these efforts lies the Crossroads Farmers Market, which supports local farmers and employs an innovative SNAP matching program that makes it easier for community members to bring home healthy food. Crossroads also provides microenterprise training and a community kitchen for food entrepreneurs and brings culturally responsive, farm-to-fork programming to local schools with high Free and Reduced-price Meals participation, as well as to the market, kitchen, and other community sites. Eat the Change Impact’s grant is supporting Crossroads' Healthy Eating program, which serves middle- and elementary-school students in classrooms and educational gardens and allows children to develop a connection to their food and see themselves as change agents in the creation of sustainable communities and food systems.


What is your role at Crossroads Community Food Network? 

I am a program manager; I facilitate sharing and learning about cooking and growing food.


How would you describe your community? What makes it unique?

The Takoma/Langley Crossroads community is one I hold near and dear to my heart: I grew up in Takoma Park! I grew up eating injera, masala dosa, yuca, and pupusas.  I still have friends I met in first grade, and I still use the Spanish I learned at a Takoma Park elementary school. I am continually amazed by people’s resilience, generosity, resourcefulness, and creativity in this community. We have strong leaders who take care of one another.


How is the concept of change important to your work? What kind of change does Crossroads Community Food Network hope to bring about?

The concept of change motivates a great deal of our work; mainly the possibility of change on a systemic level (ending white supremacy, adding power to every level of the food system), on a community level, and on a leadership level. People move towards change when it is their choice, their decision, so Crossroads strives to create opportunities through education and information and skill sharing so that people can make informed decisions in their control. I strive to present all information humbly, respectfully, and, as a facilitator, not a gatekeeper.


What has Crossroads Community Food Network been up to since the summer?

This summer has been busy! We saw record breaking sales numbers at our farmers markets; new partnerships with school and community gardens; middle and high school students earning volunteer hours; and virtual cooking classes for elementary school students, families, and moms in English and Spanish.  We've also distributed windowsill gardens, seed kits, activities to do at home and at the market that take young people off screens and earn money to spend on fruits and vegetables. And, we've done garlic planting demos with preschoolers, families, and young people. We've started hosting virtual Spanish language yoga. And most recently Crossroads participated in a training about Uprooting Racism in the Food System, hosted by Soul Fire Farm.


What are your biggest challenges right now?

Right now our biggest challenges are those brought on by COVID-19: the social isolation seniors are facing as a result of COVID-19; the social emotional learning students’ missed from virtual classes and isolation; and confronting the culture of food and gardens within big systems like public schools. 


What is inspiring you right now?

Community leaders. Jackie Frazier, Denise Jones, Doris Duarte, Flor Yanes, Rachel Hecksher, Sarah Lynch, Jennifer Underwood, Lenora Ashby, Lauren Goldberg, Sara Servin: women in my community who continue to search for collaborative, sustainable solutions, even when it feels like the task is bigger than any of us.


If you were a plant or a fungi, what would you be?

What a fun question! It would be garlic. I love garlic! Garlic takes eight months to grow, sometimes more. Garlic grows from a single clove and it is such an easy thing to plant (large seed, and very forgiving) so it is a friendly introduction to the garden for new growers. It is tasty, delicious, and has a rich, long history of culinary and medicinal uses. It is a vegetable people recognize across language and cultural differences – garlic is a people connector; just ask someone how they cook with garlic!

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