During this year’s Black History Month, Bon Appétit is partnering with registered dietitians Jessica Jones, MS, RDN, CDE and Wendy Lopez, MS, RDN, CDE of the popular Black wellness brand Food Heaven Made Easy, which focuses on inclusivity and accessibility in wellness. Bon Appetit chefs from across the country will be making recipes from Jessica and Wendy’s cookbook, 28 Day Plant Powered Health Reboot.
Jessica and Wendy are both registered dietitians and Certified Diabetes Educators with master’s degrees in nutrition science. Jessica was born in the United States and grew up eating a self-described standard Black American diet that was heavy on meat and processed foods but found her love for food and wellness as an adult and went back to school to become a registered dietitian – and became an enthusiastic Zumba instructor. Wendy was raised in the Bronx borough of New York City, but her family has deep roots from the Dominican Republic and served typical meat-heavy Caribbean foods in her family home. She became a registered dietitian to provide quality and culturally competent nutrition care to marginalized communities.
Jessica and Wendy met in 2010 when they were studying to become dietitians and working at farmers’ markets in New York City. They recognized a lack of diversity in the wellness and culinary worlds that reflected their own Black communities and wanted to address the systemic challenges that Black folks face through food education. As Jessica states, “When we started in this space over 10+ years ago, it felt like there was little representation. Most visible culinary experts, dietitians, and wellness practitioners were white women.”
The duo began creating cooking videos for the Department of Health in their small NYC apartments and then eventually transitioned to creating a website they named Food Heaven Made Easy. Today their once tiny nutrition education project has grown into a mission-driven brand that is host to a website with hundreds of plant-powered recipes, a popular wellness podcast, a plant-based cookbook, and they also write a regular column for Self Magazine. Wendy shares, “Today, it is so exciting to have more diversity in the wellness and culinary space. There is still work to do, but I love seeing the many BIPOC dietitians and wellness folks who now have a voice online. It’s great to see and learn from different perspectives. Seeing ourselves represented makes us feel like we belong.”
Jessica and Wendy’s mission is to make healthy eating more accessible and explore the ways that food intersects with culture, identity, body image and socioeconomic status. Whether they are fiercely defending carbohydrates against popular fad diets, sharing the food and history of Juneteenth and what it means for Black communities, or uncovering the racial origins of fat phobia, Wendy and Jessica are determined to educate, motivate, and inspire a love of plant foods and inclusive wellness in Black communities, and beyond.