FINDING WELLNESS IN FOOD DESERTS

FINDING WELLNESS IN FOOD DESERTS

The desire for people to eat healthier these days has gotten higher. But what do you do if you are from the Bronx and there are almost NO healthy food options?

Where do you find fresh ingredients in a food desert? How does living in a neighborhood whose only restaurant chains are Dominos, KFC and Popeye’s affect one’s holistic health? These are questions the mainstream wellness industry, oriented around wealth and luxury, often neglects to ask. But Annya Santana has built a business on them.

“Wellness is for everyone, but because it’s a luxury it feels so inaccessible,” Ms. Santana, who hails from the Bronx, said. “The question is: How can people who have experienced systemic economic and social oppression feel wellness in their lives?”

For one, it doesn’t always have to be expensive. Some of Ms. Santana’s family members have been vegetarian since the ’80s. “My uncle was always preaching that meat causes cancer, and we would just laugh it off as a conspiracy,” she said. But eight years ago Ms. Santana began to consider how food might be affecting her own body, specifically her skin. “I decided that I would finally stop laughing at my uncle’s theories, do a 10-day juice fast to clear my system,” she said. Afterward, she stopped eating meat altogether.

Her interest in wellness led to her founding Menos Mas, a beauty company that offers six multi-use body and face products with the tagline, “gender-fluid skincare. A wellness lifestyle for the culture.” All of the products are made by hand with locally sourced, organic ingredients, and the company’s marketing speaks visually and directly to African-American and Latinx communities. “First, it’s about putting the faces forward that I recognize,” Ms. Santana said. “My visuals show what’s beautiful to me — to us. Black skin, big lips. It’s who we are, and it’s beautiful.”

Read more from Wellness for the ‘Culture’ here.

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