"Plantita Power started because of lack of space," co-founder Steph Niaupari said. They started this organization for QTBIPOC (Queer, Transgender, Black, Indigenous, People of Color) individuals who struggle to obtain healthy food options in Washington, D.C.
They now form part of the food sovereignty movement, aiming to increase access to producing, consuming, and preserving cultural ties to vegetables and fruits.
While little research exists on the QTBIPOC community specifically, separate data shows that 19% of the LGBT population and 16% of the Latinx community in Washington D.C was experiencing food insecurity in 2019. Meanwhile, the average cost of a meal was $4.09, almost a dollar above the national average. The pandemic has only perpetuated existing structural problems, and the QTBIPOC community lacks access to resources like food banks. In addition, these communities often experience discrimination, housing insecurity, and malnutrition, affecting their access to produce and consume healthy foods.
"It's not that we didn't exist. It's that misgendering happens. The cycle of violence promoted in urban agricultural spaces is rampant. We were just mad, and I said let's do something about it," Niaupari explained.
Plantita Power addresses food insecurity by providing resources and knowledge to grow microgreens. These sustainable plants thrive in urban areas and have small production needs, making them accessible for individuals experiencing housing insecurity or fearing discrimination in community gardens.
However, Niaupari and the Plantita Power team face obstacles like access to soil and space. But they are motivated to empower and alleviate the barriers their community endures, so they create innovative ways to distribute seedlings and grow their presence.
Editor's note: This short film was produced as part of the Planet Forward-Comcast NBCUniversal Sustainable Storytelling Fellowship.