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VIOLIFE® Plant Grants Awards $100K to Five Black-Owned Restaurants



New program aims to make plant-based eating more accessible with support from legendary hip-hop artist RZA and vegan chef pioneers Lemel Durrah and Laricia Chandler Baker

Upfield’s Violife® vegan cheese brand today announced the recipients of its 2021 Plant Grants, a new program aimed at making plant-based meals more delicious, affordable, and available in local communities. This year’s program aims to address the disproportionate challenges faced by Black-owned restaurants and communities, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Five Black-owned restaurants have been selected to receive $20,000 each, as well as education and mentorship, to add new plant-based dishes to their menu and perform outreach in their communities. Restaurants are often the economic and cultural centers of their neighborhoods, and the goal of the Plant Grants program is to help these restaurants give everyone – vegans, flexitarians, and the plant curious alike – an easy and inspired way to eat more plant-based food every day.

“With the 2021 Plant Grants program, we’re tackling plant-based food inequity head on by empowering Black-owned restaurants to offer more plant-based dishes to their communities – dishes that will delight customers and keep them coming back for more,” said Lisa Akey, Head of Away from Home Marketing for Violife® USA. The 2021 Plant Grants program is the first year of a planned annual initiative.

Moving Plant-Based Eating Forward  

Inspiring more people to eat plant-based is at the heart of the Plant Grants program.  

RZA, the legendary hip-hop artist and outspoken vegan advocate, is sharing his personal story of going plant-based, as well as what motivated him to become involved with Plant Grants. “I’m excited to work with the Plant Grants restaurants because they are on the front line of the plant-based revolution in their communities, through their recipes and the individual touch they put on their dishes to give their customers a great meal,” said RZA. “We are what we eat. For me, that means I still get to eat cheese – vegan cheese from Violife – and with their help, I get to convince people to switch to foods made from plants because they taste good, they’re affordable, and there is a whole lot of variety to choose from. It’s a journey, which is why we need more restaurants like these grantees to help show us the way with delicious plant-based food.” 

Two vegan chef pioneers have also signed on to help the grantees create new plant-based recipes and get their communities involved. Chefs Lemel Durrah of California’s Compton Vegan and Laricia Chandler Baker (aka “Chef Fab”) of Chicago’s Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat have been at the forefront of the plant-based movement for years. As the 2021 Plant Grants Chef Mentors, they are working side-by-side with the grantees to provide guidance on everything from menu development to community outreach, as well as building a successful plant-based restaurant business.

The 2021 Plant Grants recipients share a passion for plant-based eating and have already started making a positive impact in their communities though their food.

  • Seasoned Vegan is owned and operated by mother-and-son team Brenda and Aaron Beener and located in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. Their menu of organic, 100% vegan meals are a unique type of cuisine that the Beeners call gourmet vegan soul food – globally-inspired dishes with a soulful twist.
  • Meek’s Vegan Pizza is operated by native New Yorker Demetrius Walker, who brings New York-style vegan pizza to Houston, Texas with the intention of introducing people to veganism through one of America’s favorite foods. Demetrius was inspired to establish Meek’s Vegan Pizza as a result of the struggle to find vegan foods for his nine-year-old son. Demetrius is making the transition to vegan easy and delicious through the familiarity of a comfort food staple.
  • Supreme Oasis Bakery and Deli (SOBAD) is based in Philadelphia and run by Nuyen Emanuel and her daughter, Shon, who has been deemed the “Vegan Goddess” by loyal customers. The restaurant was founded by Nuyen’s father in Baltimore 30 years ago, and she honors his legacy with delicious wholesome food at affordable prices, that is pork-free, MSG-free, trans-fat free and increasingly vegan. SOBAD partners with a local university, hospitals, and other organizations to provide free meals to their community.
  • Vegans on the Run LLC of Shreveport, Louisiana is family-owned and operated by three generations of women including owner Dr. Joslin Mar-Dai Pickens, her daughter, Jalynn Mar’Dai, mother Linda Pickens, and sister Dr. Kimberly. They are on a mission to introduce plant-based eating to customers and give back to the community through providing free “Grab ‘n Go” meals for the elderly and partnering with a local university by offering free cooking classes to college students. Joslin offers traditional comfort foods that she grew up eating but with a unique 100% vegan twist, with an aim to change the face and taste of vegan food in her community.
  • Plant Power Café & Juice Bar is based in Chattanooga, Tennessee and run by Aurellia Alexandre. Opened in November 2016, the restaurant has been a turning point for the community which had not had a vegan restaurant before then. It boasts one of the largest vegan comfort food menus in the city with easy access, availability, and reasonable fares so more people can experience a plant-based lifestyle. Plant Power Café & Juice Bar believes in feeding anyone who comes in the café, if they can afford a meal or not, and has a history of feeding the homeless at no cost.

To learn more about the 2021 Plant Grants program, please visit

About Violife
Violife is a range of award-winning 100% vegan cheese products. All Violife vegan cheese products are free from dairy, preservatives, casein, lactose, gluten, nuts, and soy. Violife comes in a wide variety of flavors and formats. 

About Upfield
Upfield is the largest plant-based consumer food products company in the world, producing plant-based spreads and plant butters. In the U.S., Upfield’s iconic brands include Country Crock®, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! ®, Brummel & Brown®, and Imperial®. Violife® 100% vegan cheese products were added to the Upfield portfolio with the acquisition of Arivia in 2020. Upfield is on a mission to deliver plant-based nutrition that is better for you and better for the planet and is helping to create a “Better Plant-based Future” for all. For more information, visit

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Black Life Texas

Hidden Sugars Served Up to Kids



To reduce childhood obesity, the USDA recently held a comment request this past February for feedback on its proposal to revise long-term school nutrition standards, which includes less added sugars in school lunch and breakfast programs.

They proposed two alternatives: Beginning in the school year 2025-26, allow flavored milk (fat-free and low-fat) at school lunch and breakfast for high school children (grades 9-12) only. Elementary and middle school children (K-8) would be limited to fat-free and/or low-fat unflavored milk. The other alternative is to maintain the current standard, which allows all schools to offer fat-free and low-fat milk, flavored and unflavored, at school lunch and breakfast. 

With over 14 million kids considered obese in the U.S., every little bit helps. For example, most elementary and middle schools offer fat-free chocolate milk. The 8-ounce carton contains about 18 grams of sugar. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 2-18 should have a maximum of 6 teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar daily.

A recent analysis of USDA’s School Nutrition and Meal Cost Study data found that flavored milk is the leading source of added sugars in the school lunch and breakfast programs, contributing almost half of the added sugars in lunches and about 30% of the added sugars in breakfasts.

The proposal states, “This approach would reduce exposure to added sugars and promote the more nutrient-dense choice of unflavored milk for young children when their tastes are being formed.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics says there are so many foods often marketed as “healthy” for kids and families that are unfortunately not great for maintaining a healthy weight or overall health.

Top Foods with Hidden Sugars:

  • Sports drinks and energy drinks
  • 100% juice drinks 
  • Breads and cereals
  • Yogurts and flavored milks
  • Most breakfast foods (cereals, pancakes, waffles, croissants)
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Black Life Texas

We Have To Help Our Obese Children




Children and young adults lead busy lifestyles. They are often in activities outside of school, so working parents often have little time for sit-down yet healthy meals. It can be easier to swing by McDonald’s or pick up a greasy pizza.

Three to four days of this routine can wreak havoc on a child’s nutrition and set them up for obesity, especially if they are not involved in athletics or active programs. The prevalence of children of color being obese is so high that the American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced that teens over age 13 should be evaluated for metabolic and bariatric surgery if they have severe obesity.

These new recommendations should sound alarm bells in Black and Brown communities. It’s no secret that San Antonio is a hot spot for diabetes. While the city’s demographics mean more of the Hispanic community struggles with this disease, the Black community, as a whole, has a disproportionate amount of children and young adults suffering from obesity, also known as a chronic disease.

More than 14.4 million U.S. children and teens are considered obese, according to the National Library of Medicine. The risk factors associated with obesity include hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic liver disease. Because a child or adolescent with obesity is 70% more likely to struggle with their weight as an adult, it is imperative to work on reducing weight as a child.

The most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination from 2015-2016 demonstrated that class I obesity was highest among Black females at 25.1% and Hispanic males at 20% compared to 13.6% and 14.7% in white females and males.

What are the solutions to decreasing obesity rates in children? First, it will have to start with parents, teachers, or adults overseeing kids.

Smarter Choices – It may not be realistic to cook home meals daily or afford the healthiest options. However, relaying to kids to make smarter choices can introduce small changes. Instead of french fries, choose baked chips or fruit. Also, encouraging smaller portions can reduce calories since most fast food and sit-down restaurants serve enough for two people. Learn to read nutrition labels so kids and adults understand what’s going into their bodies.

Girls on the Run/School Sports – Many schools offer active programs for kids, such as the low-cost option of Girls on the Run, which encourages girls to run. While some kids may not like playing sports or running, other after-school options include dance, volleyball, and even golf – even these activities include some form of exercise conditioning.

Netflix’s 2017 documentary “Sisters on Track” followed the Sheppard sisters and their mother, who went from homelessness to all three sisters pursuing their Jr. Olympic dreams. Their mother, Tonia Handy, signed her daughters up for Jeuness Track Club for girls in Brooklyn to give them something to do and stay out of trouble. The club’s coach, Jean Bell, can be seen in the documentary not only coaching the girls but also helping with life challenges and expenses. After the documentary aired, Tyler Perry paid for rent to help the family move out of a homeless shelter. Brooks Running set up a $25,000 educational fund for each sister, totaling $75,000. Brooks also donated $5,000 to Jeuness Track Club to help cover expenses for families who can’t afford it.

Gaming – The world of gaming is keeping our kids more sedentary than ever. Encourage reduced times or no gaming during the school week. Try to incorporate active video games that often have the user learning dance steps and kickboxing – sometimes with a VR or virtual headset. If your child goes to a recreational center after school, encourage them to invest in active gaming equipment.
Overall, it’s up to parents and adults to break that cycle of obesity. This includes making healthier choices, incorporating activity, and eating high-calorie food in moderation.

And while there is much debate about food deserts in low-income communities, we have to do something despite that. Food deserts are defined as low-income communities where the nearest supermarket is more than several miles away and access to affordable and quality foods is limited.
Brookings recently reported that after analyzing the distribution of grocery stores in several large U.S. cities, they found that premium grocery stores are less likely to be located in Black-majority neighborhoods, regardless of the average household income of those neighborhoods, and are substantially more likely to be in areas where the Black population share is less than 10%.

In other words, businesses and the broader real estate and financing sectors aren’t investing even in prospering Black-majority neighborhoods, which devalues these communities and hinders growth opportunities. This is true in San Antonio. Even those grocery stores considered organic or upscale are in select parts of the city where income levels are high. While some supermarkets have returned to the city after leaving due to competition, they are now offering costly delivery services – not realistic for families on a tight food budget. And while the nearest Walgreens, CVS, or gas station store may not have fruit, salad, or healthier choices, they do have crackers, baked chips, and protein bars – which are better options than candy. And instead of buying high-calorie sodas, many drinks now have low-sugar and no-sugar options. And there’s even water sold with a hint of fruit. How clever is that – water and good old lemon!

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Pepsi Dig In Day Returns



Pepsi® and Chef Carla Hall Announce the Return of Pepsi Dig In Day to Celebrate and Show Love for America’s Black-Owned Restaurants

Pepsi Dig In Day returns Saturday, November 5th giving consumers the chance to win $5,000 for themselves and a $5,000 donation to their nominated Black-owned restaurant when they dine out and share on social media

Pepsi Dig In, the purpose-driven platform designed to drive access, business acceleration and awareness for Black-owned restaurants, is rallying Americans across the country to celebrate their local Black-owned restaurants by dining at them on Saturday, November 5th for Pepsi Dig In Day.

To kick off the festivities for Pepsi Dig In Day, now in its second year, Pepsi Dig In has teamed up with author, television personality and celebrity chef Carla Hall to encourage food lovers to come together and dine at Black-owned restaurants. From October 25th through November 6th, fans who post their meal and tag their favorite local Black-owned eatery will have the chance to win $5,000 for themselves and a $5,000 donation for the nominated restaurant, when they include @PepsiDigIn and #DigInShowLove #sweepstakes. See Official Rules for details and restrictions.

“I’ve always been passionate about celebrating the food and community that Black-owned restaurants bring to the table. Pepsi Dig In does a phenomenal job of supporting these culinary gems with initiatives like Pepsi Dig In Day. We can all make a tangible impact by dining at these restaurants and enjoying what they have to offer,” said chef Carla Hall.

An annual initiative, Pepsi Dig In Day aims to drive consumers to patronize Black-owned restaurants and support the cornerstone of communities across the country. As part of the larger Pepsi Dig In program to drive business and visibility to Black-owned restaurants, Pepsi Dig In Day brings national awareness to Black restaurateurs by tapping into the network and scale that Pepsi provides.

“Pepsi Dig In Day is a movement to inspire diners to discover Black-owned restaurants they’re excited to visit all year round. From rallying food lovers to providing tools for restauranteurs, our goal is to leverage the combined resources and power of our platform, partners, and fans to make a long-lasting impact,” said Scott Finlow, Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo Global Foodservice.

This year, Pepsi Dig In is inspiring Americans to show love for their favorite local Black-owned eateries for Pepsi Dig In Day and beyond with activities including:

  • Pepsi Dig In will cover the tab between $2,000 and $5,000 at select Black-owned restaurants on Pepsi Dig In Day (while supplies last). Brunch celebrations at Pepsi Dig In restaurant partners will feature a mix of live DJs, custom menus, and more at 20 select restaurants in major cities across the country including Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Phoenix, among others. Fans can check @PepsiDigIn on social to find out where they can celebrate near them.
  • Corporate partners rise to the occasion to support Pepsi Dig In Day by offering a sponsored lunch from Black-owned restaurants for their employees from October 31st through November 4th. Companies committed to Pepsi Dig In Corporate Week include the National Football LeagueNational Hockey LeagueTripadvisorMinnesota VikingsMinnesota TwinsMinnesota United FCBentoBoxVail ResortsHudson CreativeLaunch KitsLiveRampDelaware NorthAcceleration Community of CompaniesGenesco Sports EnterprisesFUSEFigure 8Walton Isaacson, and others.
  • Providing Black restauranteurs with funding and dedicated toolkits of templated brand materials to help bolster their marketing and social media efforts around Pepsi Dig In Day.
  • Encouraging consumers to find their local Black-owned restaurants via EatOkra, and post and tag @PepsiDigIn and #DigInShowLove to help spread the word in their own communities.

Pepsi Dig In continues to offer Black restaurateurs access to resources like Black Restaurants Deliver, a free eight-week consultancy by the experts at Figure 8 that enables restaurants with the tools to meet consumer needs, increase business and improve their online presence. In addition, Pepsi Dig In provides access to opportunities for growth and visibility like its recent Restaurant Royalty Residency program bringing custom dishes from Black restauranteurs to Las Vegas for four-week residencies at MGM Resorts International Mandalay Bay and Luxor hotels. This collaboration is fostered by a shared commitment to building an inclusive and diverse culture for employees, guests, and community.

For further information on Pepsi Dig In, fans can visit and follow @PepsiDigIn on InstagramFacebook and Twitter for the latest updates.

About Pepsi Dig In

Pepsi Dig In is the brand’s multi-faceted platform designed to drive access, business acceleration, and awareness to Black-owned restaurants including millions in grants and resources. Launched in 2020 as part of PepsiCo’s Racial Equality Journey (REJ), the company committed $50 million to support Black-owned businesses over five years, part of PepsiCo’s larger REJ initiative totaling more than $400 million to increase representation within the company, support Black-owned businesses, and help to create economic opportunities in the communities it serves. To date, Pepsi Dig In has driven:

  • Access, through a $10 million grant from the PepsiCo Foundation to the National Urban League to co-create the Black Restaurant Accelerator program, which provides funding, mentoring and management training to 500 Black restaurant owners in 12 cities over a five-year period.
  • Business acceleration, by launching Black Restaurants Deliver, a pro bono digital and delivery consulting program that is helping restaurant owners adapt to the new consumer landscape.
  • Consumer awareness, with the Restaurant Royalty program encouraging consumers to nominate and share their favorite Black-Owned restaurants to unlock access to unique opportunities, and National Dig In Day, an annual initiative driving consumers to visit these establishments.

About PepsiCo

PepsiCo products are enjoyed by consumers more than one billion times a day in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. PepsiCo generated more than $79 billion in net revenue in 2021, driven by a complimentary beverage and convenient foods portfolio that includes Lay’s, Doritos, Cheetos, Gatorade, Pepsi-Cola, Mountain Dew, Quaker, and SodaStream. PepsiCo’s product portfolio includes a wide range of enjoyable foods and beverages, including many iconic brands that generate more than $1 billion each in estimated annual retail sales.

Guiding PepsiCo is our vision to Be the Global Leader in Beverages and Convenient Foods by Winning with PepsiCo Positive (pep+). pep+ is our strategic end-to-end transformation that puts sustainability and human capital at the center of how we will create value and growth by operating within planetary boundaries and inspiring positive change for the planet and people. For more information, visit, and follow on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and LinkedIn @PepsiCo.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Begins 10/25/22, 12:00:00 a.m. ET and ends 11/6/22, 11:59:59 p.m. ET. Open to legal U.S. residents residing in the 50 US/DC who are 18 or older (19 or older for AL/NE) at the time of entry. Void where prohibited. To enter without making a purchase, email with “Pepsi Dig In Entry” in the Subject line and include (a) your first and last name, complete street address (no PO boxes), day phone number, DOB and email address; and (b) the name and address of the Black-owned restaurant you wish to nominate in the body of the email. Limit one entry per person per day, regardless of entry method. Subject to Official Rules: Sponsor: Pepsi-Cola Company, 700 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, NY 10577.

SOURCE PepsiCo Beverages North America

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