Grandma's Hands

Elder African-American women pass down their cultural food traditions to the younger generations.


Our program was designed around us purchasing food from local African American farmers and having families participate in preparing and eating a meal together.

Why Grandma’s Hands?

Today, only 7% of people from communities of color report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, compared to 18% of whites.

The resulting poor nutrition, combined with the other social determinants of health, means that our African-American neighbors have the highest rate of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity in Oregon.

Vanessa Grandchildren at BFF 1

What We Do

Each month we come together and use specialty crops such as collard greens, beans, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and squash, as well as foods that are not commonly eaten by families in the area.

Our group of grandmas cook for the families and have them experience different varieties of vegetables and recipes based on our family traditions.

The Story of Grandma's Hands

Grandma’s Hands is a platform for Black grandmothers to share family recipes and food traditions with future generations. The program provides a bag of fresh produce grown by Black farmers and brings everyone together virtually to learn how to prepare the featured recipe together.

“Grandma’s Hands have always been there to pick us up, lift us up, and guide us to the right path.” – Vanessa Chambers

Our Grandma’s Hands story begins with Vanessa and Willie Chambers, and how Vanessa was sharing cooking traditions and experiences with their grandchildren at home. That picture was captured in Willie’s mind in 2018 when he met with Katrina Ratzlaff and Lisa Cline from Wallace Medical, Lynn Ketch from the Rockwood CDC, Maureen Quinn from OSU, and others working for the health of the people of Rockwood.

The conversation got around to food systems and how to promote good nutrition and health. From there, the picture of grandmothers actively passing on their cultural and family food traditions to younger generations came into focus. Willie had already seen it at home; he knew the words penned by Gil Scott Heron and sung by Bill Withers — “Grandma’s Hands.”

Willie reached out to Chuck Smith and the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition to help work on developing this concept. Throughout 2019 we reflected on the transformative power of Grandma’s Hands and worked on how to activate Grandma’s Hands in improving our health, guiding our eating habits, strengthening our connections, and building our community.

The first Grandma’s Hands project was funded in 2020 through a grant submitted by the Rockwood CDC to the Oregon Department of Agriculture to serve the Rockwood community. Black Food Sovereignty Coalition (BFSC), in partnership with the Rockwood CDC, did the natural and right thing- turn to the Black Grandmas in our community to have their Hands bring this project to life. Vanessa Chambers was one of those first Grandmas to guide this program.

The Grandma’s Hands program is delivered in a partnership between the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition and the Rockwood CDC through an Oregon Department of Agriculture specialty crop grant.

Grandma's Hands by the Numbers

People Registered
Families Registered
Meal Kits Distributed
Adults Served
Youth Served
COVID Participants
Identify as Black/African American
Live in Rockwood
BIPOC Food Producers
New Fruits and Vegetables
Vanessa Grandchildren at BFF 1

Over 90% of all evaluation respondents answered in the affirmative to all evaluation feedback areas:

  • Introduced to foods that I had not eaten before
  • Intent to eat more of the foods sampled today
  • Increased knowledge of foods that I could consume
  • More likely to attend events like this
  • Made connections with others in their community
  • Met new people (would be interested in connecting with them again)
  • Increased the number of people in their social network

Read more about our work with Grandma’s Hands at Civil Eats

Our Work

We work intentionally with community members to solve systems-level issues with systems-level solutions.