KISH: Tell us about yourself.
My name is Nichole Mooney and I’m the founder of Black Girls Cook , a non-profit organization operating in Baltimore and Miami with a mission to empower and inspire inner-city adolescent girls of color through culinary arts and urban farming with an emphasis on Black Foodways.
KISH: What is your dream and how will accomplishing your dream benefit you and others?
Nichole: About half of African-American women in the U.S. are obese, compared to 30 percent of white women. Black women not only carry more weight, but they start piling on extra pounds years before their white counterparts. Research suggests the problem starts early and it has a lot to do with the convenience foods black girls consume during childhood years. Hands-on cooking classes are not taught in schools and businesses that teach cooking classes for kids are very expensive. My dream is for Black Girls Cook to not only provide opportunities for hundreds of adolescent black girls to develop healthy relationships with food, but also reduce their chances of developing health issues as adults.
KISH: Who or what inspired you to pursue this dream?
Nichole: When I think back on my childhood, I recall many women in my family having health issues such as being diabetic, having high blood pressure and obesity. It was so common, I just assumed it “ran in the family”. Now that I am a mom to a beautiful little girl and a mentor to countless girls who have been in BGC, it is important for me to develop programming that teaches black girls how to prepare healthy versions of their favorite meals; grow their own foods; and educate them on the importance of optimal health.
KISH: What challenges have you encountered while pursuing your dream?
Nichole: The main challenge has been getting consistent from funders to cover expenses associated with operating our various programs. For example, during the George Floyd protests, many corporations were literally calling and emailing us to send a check because their funding priority had shifted; in other words they needed to start supporting black led organizations. Fast forward to now, trying to secure additional funds to continue the work they previously funded is impossible. The next biggest challenge is having a consistent kitchen and space for our programs. Commercial spaces and venues prices have increased significantly, which can make it challenging to keep our programming costs down.
KISH: Who or what inspired you to keep pushing regardless of the challenges you’ve encountered?
Nichole: The girls! These girls in our programs and my daughter motivate me during challenging times. Seeing young girls come into our program and grow and develop their interpersonal skills inspires me to push through any challenges I encounter. My daughter, who also loves to cook, motivates me as I always want to lead by example and be a great role model for her.
KISH: Please provide final thoughts/advice for others by finishing this sentence… dream.
Nichole: Dream without reservation. When you dream, it’s easy to get discouraged when things aren’t working out as you planned. The difficulties can cause you to be discouraged or quit even before you begin. We often kill our dreams before we have a chance to see them come to fruition. I want to encourage everyone to commit to their dreams and to not be discouraged by their starting point or access. Dream bigger than you think you can. And whatever you’re doing, make sure that you’re consistent and be mindful that people are always watching.