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The James Beard Foundation Honors an Atlanta-Based Organization for Its Community Activism

Atlanta-based organization Gangstas to Growers, part of the Come Up Project, was among the winners honored by the James Beard Foundation in the Leadership category

A James Beard Award medal. James Beard Foundation

After postponing, then canceling the awards ceremony over the summer, the James Beard Foundation held a live Twitter broadcast Friday, September 25, honoring nominees and previous award winners within the Leadership, Lifetime Achievement, and America’s Classics categories. Atlanta-based organization Gangstas to Growers (G2G), part of the Come Up Project, was among the winners honored in the Leadership category during the Friday evening broadcast.

The organization provides young people and formerly incarcerated individuals from underserved communities with paid internships and mentoring on Black-owned farms where they plant, harvest, and sell produce at local markets and restaurants. The program is meant to help foster entrepreneurial opportunities for its mentees to become self-sustaining business owners.

In a video featured during the broadcast, the Come Up Project founder and executive director Abiodun Henderson says the mission of the organization is to “end the cycle of poverty within our community and provide a space of healing to help support a Black-run food system and end recidivism in our communities.”

In order to create “real generational wealth,” Henderson says the organization needed to make a product. Currently, G2G is working with farmers from the South West Atlanta Growers Cooperative (SWAG) and West Georgia’s Farmers Cooperative to produce a brand of hot sauce infused with tumeric and lavender called Sweet Sol. An even spicier version incorporating Scotch Bonnet peppers from Grayson-based High Hog Farm should be ready for sale by November.

Until G2G raises enough funds to open its own manufacturing facility in Atlanta, the organization has partnered with shared kitchen and marketplace Marddy’s to create, bottle, and sell Sweet Sol.

“Gangstas to Growers is saying that everyone is worthy of love, knowledge, and economic empowerment,” Henderson continues in the James Beard Foundation video. “Our goal is self-sufficiency.”

Bottles of Sweet Sol hot sauce are $12 each and can be purchased online, at the West End Fresh MARTA market, AHA Returning Communities market, shops such as Wadada Healthy Market and Juice Bar, and by Marddy’s.

According to the Come Up Project website, approximately 40 percent of the revenue from the sale of the hot sauce goes back to G2G co-op co-owners, with 20 percent going to farmers providing ingredients. The remaining revenue is reinvested back into the training program.

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