Cumpanis began as a little seed in my heart in 2009. It was in a Latin class that I learned of the word Cumpanis (pronounced coom-pah-nees). Cumpanis is the Latin root for the word "Company", and literally translates to "With Bread". The word “company,” then, signifies a marriage of the words “food” and “people”. I became fascinated with the literal and symbolic meaning of this word and thought about it often.
I've always loved food and cooking, but more than the actual food, I love the community that a shared meal facilitates. During my high school and college days, I often cooked and baked for friends. Most of my friends did not live in my neighborhood, and my mom’s Bronx apartment was by no means spacious, but I would pack the place out with friends who came from different boroughs to break bread in community. Perhaps the reason the word Cumpanis struck me the way it did, was because never before had a word encapsulated [so perfectly] that thing that happens when food and people come together. Yes, eating food is good. Yes, being together is great -- but the magic of Cumpanis lived at the intersection of food and people.
In 2014, I co-facilitated a cooking class with Jeannette Bocanegra (now a close friend) for families in the throes of the juvenile justice system. The classes were a great success and became part of the yearly programming for families. Through these sessions we shared recipes, formed deeper bonds with each-other, and shared our culture through food.
By way of these cooking workshops with families, and through my work with the South Bronx Farmers Market, which I co-founded in 2014, I quickly realized that people were extremely interested in having conversations about food and health. Every single person I encountered was interested in having conversations about health and how they could achieve this through food. Contrary to what many may believe about low income communities, everyone I met sought out a better understanding of healthy foods and healthy diets. No one I met wanted to be sick, and everyone I met wanted health and vitality.
The problem in my community then was not a lack of interest in health, but a lack of access to healthy food -- coupled with confusing diet information buzzing around - carbs or no carbs? Low fat or full fat? Organic or locally grown? Working to create a farmers market with fresh and locally grown produce in the South Bronx, accessible to EBT/SNAP recipients, was a step in the right direction; but so much work was left to be done around community health & food systems education, not to mention equitable access to real foods.
It's been around ten years since the first day I first learned of the word Cumpanis, and today Cumpanis is a South Bronx incorporated company with a mission to empower and mobilize communities through cooking, wellness, food-system and food-justice education (#wellnessinthehood).
Cumpanis works to restore not only our relationship to real food, but also our bonds to one another through food. We model for people how and why they should practice Cumpanis more often. The Cumpanis experience is both healing to our bodies and healing to our relationships.
Founder and CEO