The relationship between nutrition, mental health and health overall is one that is ignored far too often. Inner city children are quickly written off as “behavioral problems” and swiftly ushered into the world of corrective interventions without taking a deeper look at environmental contributors. Ericka Stewart, the founder of Everyone Love Someone has a different approach and it starts with a good meal.
I met Ericka at iMunch Cafe in Philly early in the day. A location I selected largely in part to it being one of the few black owned cafes in the Brewerytown area. The other part was their bomb-ass black bean burger id been craving since my last visit. While my mouth watered in anticipation Stewart seemed reluctant to order.
“You better be ready to throw down!,” I joked —well partially. See, I have this thing where I don’t like to eat alone but that’s therapy for another day. That’s when Stewart hit me with one of the most humbling yet admirable concepts I had ever encountered in my time spent providing social services. She said that she was “fasting.” I prematurely assumed the fast was religiously affiliated but I didn’t want to pry. That’s when I was hit with the break down. Stewart fasts so that she can attempt to understand the very children and families they wish to serve through the organization Everyone Love Someone.
It’s Stewart’s preference to bypass meals in order to gain some insight into what many families experience on a daily basis: hunger. Think about that. How many of us would intentionally subject ourselves to hunger or sacrifice any other comforts we have been afforded? This was an indication of true commitment to the cause. A great sign in any social service venture.
Why Everyone Love Someone? The mission of ELS is to “connect fellow entrepreneurs, interns, volunteers and community members to opportunities to create a social impact within the lives of endangered children.” Stewart has a long history in the mental health and social service field. In the past, Stewart has been involved with several organizations including the Attic Youth Center, COLOURS Organization, Mazzoni Center, Prevention Point Philadelphia, and Morris Home in addition to having over 14 years experience in Human Services. ELS brings that experience to life with ELS’ current mission and fundraising initiative: The Social Impact Cafe.
The Social Impact Cafe. Sounds trendy and impactful, right? That’s because the cafe will target high-trauma neighborhoods in the city of Philadelphia bringing nutrition education and free to pay-what-you-can meals to participating residents. With the Social Impact Cafe, everyone eats and everyone gets access to nutritional, educational, and mental health resources. Bringing the resources to the community as opposed to relying on community members to seek the resources themselves will help to relieve the negative stigma that exists in the Black Community regarding mental illness.
Stewart hopes that the Social Impact Cafe will become a community hub for social services bringing valuable information directly to the community. This is different from many mental health community resource models which instead wait for referrals to filter through. Stewart believes that submerging oneself in the communities you serve is more effective than trying to have an impact from a distance or through traditional outpatient methods. By interacting with and being true advocates for families and children, Everyone Love Someone intends on earning the trust of the community and building a connection many social service organizations aren’t always successful with.
“BREAKING THE CYCLE OF TRAUMA TODAY IS MY PRIMARY FOCUS. WHAT CAN I DO TODAY THAT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE?” ERICKA STEWART, EVERYONE LOVE SOMEONE
It looks like Stewart has that figured out. There are those who don’t take a second notice to someone begging for food and then there are those who will give up their own lunch to feed someone else. Stewart is a true reflection of the heart of Philadelphia. I for one are happy to have community members with a strong sense of humanity in a city touted to be the City of Brotherly and Sisterly (come on now!) Love.
Visibly Queer Folk Are Needed. Stewart is one of many black and openly LGBT leaders in Philly doing their part to provide healing to communities they grew up in. The importance of visibly black, queer women in piloting social projects in their communities is highly underestimated. This past Election Day we witnessed history as a monumental number of black women and openly LGBT State officials were voted into office. Jahana Hayes, Ayana Presley, Letitia “Tish” James, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Ilhan Omar are just a few women of color conquering many firsts in their respective states. As the topic of LGBTQ visibility and inclusivity comes to the center, we ask that our LGBTQ and Black Leaders stand OUT as your inspiration is needed, commended, and celebrated.
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