Organic Melinda

healthy living with a Latin twist


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Day 30 – A Day of Work, Work, Work

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 I have switched my site to a new server. I will only be posting on this blog for the next week or two until I have completed the site transfer. 

To My Little Princess,

What a day this has been. Mami woke up to edit for a client, transfer my website to a new server, edit for another client, and work some more.

I am sorry for not being as attentive as you needed me to be, but I am glad that I got to hold you in my arms while I worked. You got to play with my hair and fall asleep on my chest.

I know that there will be many more days where I will have to work around the clock in order to establish my business.

I hope that this will be a temporary process and the income will flow in from Eat Like A Vegan and my Healthy Living Consultations.

I have faith that things will get better, soon, and we wont have to fret about whether or not you can run around and drop food on the floor here and there.

Grandma has been gracious enough to let us stay here for the month, but our time here is coming to an end soon. We have to find a place to live.

Luckily, Daddy has a job interview on Wednesday, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he gets it. That would be so awesome, because he has been working part-time. But, we shall see what the future holds.

I am pushing through, applying to jobs, and continuing my efforts.

I really hate the thought of having to leave you for 50 hours a week, so I am trying my best not to have to, baby girl.

Now that it nears 5 a.m., it’s time for Mami to get some sleep.

Everyday of my life,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:
In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 29 – Somersaults

Dear Little Acrobat of Mine,

After my interview with Tasleem Jamila of Radio Islam where she and I discussed living gmo-free, supporting local farms, and my services, you and I had a ton of fun this afternoon.

I took you on a trip to the backyard and brought you to stand in the sun for a little while.

Afterwards, we came back home, and I played with you in bed. I would place the blanket over my head and you would lift it up and laugh so hard.

Then, we could go under the blanket together. You would giggle and put your feet in my face telling me to kiss your toes.

I tickled you as you laughed and laughed some more.

We sang capoeira songs. Now, you know two songs – la la la eu and oi sim sim sim oi nao nao nao. You sing them on your own, clap your hands, and then make me join along.

you and Daddy doing capoeira

During one of these moments, you did your very first somersault, today!

I am so proud of how athletic you are at only 18 months old.

You are flourishing so quickly and getting so smart.

Of course, you’re still my baby girl as you demand kisses and cuddles.

You always want to fall asleep in my arms and stay there the whole time you’re napping.

I am usually happy to oblige.

I have to breastfeed you, now, so I have to go.

With a boobie in your mouth,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:
In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 28 – Prisoner of Love

To My Love,

Hello, my sweet. You are rest, right now, and I am right besides you. I have a super long to-do list, but, even in your sleep, you want all of my attention.

Today has been an odd day for me. I was up much of last night working on my second book, editing my website, setting up the course material for DDFS, and I didnt get to sleep until about 8 a.m.

I woke up around 10:30 am because I had a meeting scheduled with Francesca, who has been a guiding light these past 6 months. She’s helped turn me into a more competent business woman. Today, she and I talked about my course design, workshops, and pricing. She’s been super helpful in helping me turn my skills into a business.

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You’ve been clingy much of the day. I am sure that you can feel how preoccupied I am with thoughts in order to secure our survival.

Because I have been so busy trying to build my businesses, I am just going to lay here next to you while you sleep and comfort you.

You’re more important to me than all of the money in the world. Mami is just trying to secure our financial future.

This series is coming to a close in just a few more days, but I have decided to keep writing to you at least a few times a week.

I cannot wait until you’re old enough to read these letters.

Every day,
Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:
In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 27 – Perfection is Myth

To My Little Love,

I was having a discussion about perfection with Annie Sanchez from Debt Free Like Annie.  She told me that she likes that I set goals and work towards them without obsessing over making every single detail perfect.

My response to her can be summed up in this quote:

“My farts will never smell like mangoes.”

The phrase just slipped out while I was writing to her, and while amusing, it gets to the heart of what I was trying to explain.

We often obsess over things being perfect. We want the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect body, the perfect meal, the perfect life experience, but it doesn’t exist.

If anything, it is the flaws and imperfections that provide detail and render life beautiful.

I learned many moons ago that my pursuit of perfection would, literally, make me go crazy.

I decided I would get my doctorate degree when I was roughly 10 years old. From that moment on, I worked super hard at everything. I joined almost every after-school program I could throughout middle and high school, and found myself at Barnard College of Columbia University where I pursued education with the same fervor I did as a child.

At the end of that pursuit, I found myself with few friends and on the verge of insanity when, upon graduation, I was unemployed, back at my mother’s house, and had to make that terrible trip to the Department of Social Services and apply for food stamps.

I cried the entire walk there. I cried quietly in the waiting room. I cried after I applied, and yet again when I got home.

I continued to send my resume and landed a job, again, which I worked at very hard, but the pressure that I had placed upon myself to live a life I had dreamed of when I was 10 years old caused me to have severe panic attacks.

I couldn’t even keep the job, which was a high paying research analyst position in Wall Street, because my entire existence became consumed with panic attacks.

Perfectionism often comes with the consequence of high levels of anxiety.  The more pressure you put on yourself on having a particular item be perfect, the more your level of anxiety increases until you are in a state of panic.

Once you are used to being anxious most (or all) of the time, your body transitions faster and faster to the flight or fight mode activated by anxiety.

I began to unconsciously hyperventilate all of the time.

My battle with panic attacks resulted in an extreme fear of death. The more I tried to control my environment, the worse my panic attacks got. This battle lasted about a year.

And, then, I had a breakthrough.

One day, as I laid in bed having one of the worst panic attacks of my life which convinced me that I would die, a thought occurred to me – just relax Melinda.

I took a deep breath, said La illaha il Allah, closed my eyes, and decided that I would allow myself to die if I was going to.

The next day, I woke up.

I felt refreshed. Maybe, even renewed.

When I gave up the illusion of control and my anxiety over dying before that perfect moment I envisioned in my head, the panic attack stopped.

I have had very few, if any, panic attacks since that day.

That moment taught me that life would never be exactly what I wanted it to be, and insisting that life be some ideal version will only cause me anxiety, fear, and imbalance.

Good mental health is not about life being perfect. It is not about always being happy. It is not about everything always falling into place exactly how you want it.

Instead, you can only be a truly healthy person when you learn how to cope with the difficulty around you, how to make the best of it, and how to appreciate what you have.

Letting go of the twin illusions of perfection and control does not mean that you don’t work towards the betterment of your life. It doesn’t mean that you half-ass things and don’t put your all into them.

Rather, it means that you become even more responsible for your own actions, because you have a deeper understanding of your own accountability.

I believe in being able to shape things through my actions.

Things will never be perfect, but they will be what you need to grow and expand into a full human being.

Always by your side,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.

 


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Day 26 – Mujeres Poderosas – Valesca Macedo (Contra Mestre Loba)

To My Inspiration,

They say that people with goals seldom sleep.  They leave the dreaming to others while they build their realities.

As I watch the sunrise through a grey sky full of clouds, I reflect on what makes women role models. Particularly, I think about the common traits that the women who inspire me possess.

They are kind, determined, self-loving, nurturing, authentic, and hard working.

Today’s Mujer (or rather Mulher) Poderosa is my capoeira teacher, mentor, and friend, Valesca Macedo  (Contra Mestre Loba of Grupo Senzala de Capoeira).

Valesca possesses all of these qualities and many more.

Valesca and her son.

 

I learned about CM Loba when I attended a Grupo Senzala batizado in 2010.  She was the first female capoeirista that I had seen climb the ranks as I had the privilege of witnessing her receive her contra mestre cordao.

In the roda, she was sharp – a total badass – holding her own against men twice her size. I was enamored by her strength and agility in the roda.

It took over three years, however, and me being part of two other capoeira groups before I had the privilege to train under CM Loba.

Upon becoming a member of Grupo Senzala, I was determined to train under a woman, particularly, with CM Loba.

I joined Evolution Fitness just to take her capoeira classes, but then I began to take all of her classes – Step, Butt, Legs and Thighs, and Butts, Guts & More.

In those classes, she is Valesca. During capoeira class, she is CM Loba.

Valesca’s energy was infectious. I found myself getting in shape super fast. Not only was she great at motivating us to push ourselves during class, she was also kind and always willing to provide advice for anyone who had a question.

In capoeira class, she has been patient with me as I transition from my previous capoeira styles into hers and as I recover from physical injury. And, of course, she pushes me to be better and better.

Valesca is all about female empowerment, and she gets super excited when our capoeira classes are all-women.

Through my experiences  with women like her, I have learned to value the importance of female companionship and camaraderie.

As if teaching tons of fitness classes weren’t enough, Valesca is also an entrepreneur, a mother, and she is currently training to be a Bikini Fitness Model.

It is super exciting to see her body transformation these past few months, and she is a constant reminder of my own fitness goals.

While I have only formally been Valesca’s student since March of this year, I am sure that this friendship will last a lifetime.

I am honored to be in the presence of such an inspiring woman who can kick ass and look super hot while doing it.

Valesca is a role model for you because she embodies strength and femininity, physical fitness and gentleness, and toughness and kindness.

I look forward to when you are old enough to take capoeira classes with her.

Axe,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 24 – Mujeres Poderosas – Raquel Z. Rivera

To my Little Purple Wolf,

You went down the slide in the park ALL by yourself, today. I saw your light and independence shine, shine, shine!

I am so excited to see you become such an independent and fun loving little girl.

Right now, you are learning animal sounds with grandma. She has taught you how to meow, woof, and aaahoooo.

I love watching the two of you interact.

Seeing your eyes shining bright reminds me of one of the most influential women in my life since my undergraduate career and today’s Mujer Poderosa, Raquel Z. Rivera.

Raquel is the first woman of Puerto Rican descent that I met who earned a PhD.  I was her student at the “From Hip Hop to Reggaeton” course taught at Columbia University during my sophomore year.

Raquel and her baby boy. Photo taken by Catarina Dos Santos.

At that time, Raquel was a recent PhD who had just published her work “New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone.” She was highly influenced by the work of Juan Flores, and I was thrilled to learn that one could pursue work on hip hop at the PhD level.

At that point in my life, I knew I wanted to get a PhD, but I didn’t have much of an understanding of what that entailed.

After taking her course, I continued to maintain a relationship with Raquel, where she served as a mentor and guide through my undergraduate career, my graduate studies, and today.  She remains one of the biggest supporters of my decision to pursue higher education and has been a recommender for many of the programs I have had the privilege of being accepted into.

Not only is Raquel an accomplished scholar, she is also an incredible musician.  Her album,  Las 7 Salves de  la Magdalena, with Ojos de Sofia pays tribute to traditional Dominican musical forms with a twist.  On top of becoming a mom recently and moving all the way to New Mexico from New York, Raquel has been working on new songs that are part of the series “Las Décimas del Amargue & Other Songs of Love and Bitterness,” which will move away from common musical tropes of heartbroken women as empty and lost without a man.  She even has a recent article due to be published in the Latin American Music Review.

Raquel, like Isabel, remind us that you can be a scholar, a woman, mother, and artist without having to compromise yourself and your integrity.

She is a woman you should admire for her kindness, willingness to help her community, and her extreme talent.

I can only hope that you will find mentors and educators as forthcoming and dedicated to the better of their communities like I have in Raquel.

With Gratitude,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 19 – Mujeres Poderosas – Isabel Porras

To My Mini Educator,

As I write about the women that inspire me, I have noticed that many of these women are involved in higher education and community work.

Today, you get to learn about one of the coolest chicks I have ever met, Isabel Porras.

Isabel is currently completing her PhD at UC, Davis in Cultural Studies.  She was awarded the AAUW American Fellowship to complete her dissertation.   She is teaching Women’s Studies (feminist theory and sexuality history/theory).

One of the creative geniuses of the blog, http://academictyra.tumblr.com/, Isabel is a woman destined for academic and career success.

I met Isabel at an MMUF conference in Oberlin College a few years ago.  Our personalities synced together really quickly when we discussed the difficulties of being a Latina woman, an academic, and someone who also wanted to have a husband and children in the future.

It is often perceived that a woman should or could not have both an academic career and a family.  It is also very difficult for Latina women to find comfortable spaces within the academy.

Isabel left a huge impression on me when she debated with the conference staff about having gender-assigned bathrooms, which could discriminate against intersexed individuals.

There she was, with her head covered in curly locks, demanding social inclusion for all people.

Isabel is the kind of woman I want you to admire because of her holistic approach to advocacy and her determination to succeed as a scholar without compromising her beliefs.

Isabel

Starting Academic Tyra is just one of the subversive ways that Isabel contends with various aspects of academia.  She also likes to sample rap songs and make them academic and quite hilarious.

Isabel has also been a mentor, thinking tank, resource and role model for me.

When you think of Isabel and women like her, remember that you can accomplish your goals and dreams while poking fun of those who try to limit your possibilities.

Wishing you a joyous future,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 12 – Mujeres Poderosas – Olivia Rios

Good Morning to my Precious Child,

Today is a beautiful day.

Last night, Mami hosted a live chat on raising healthy families with Tatiana Amico, a health coach also dedicated to helping people live toxic free lifestyles.

It was the first time that I hosted an online event, and it was a wonderful experience. I am looking forward to doing it, again.

As it turns out, i is Thursday, so you get to learn about the 4th Mujer Poderosa, Olivia Rios, who I am really excited to write about.  

Often times, we think that role models have to be , presidents, movie stars, revolutionaries or people with stuffed pockets, but I think looking to only those types of people misses out on people who live the struggle daily and find ways to constantly be excited about life.

Olivia (or as I called her for many months Princesa Bolivia) and I met in the summer of 2010 in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico.  We both received grants from the Foreign Language Area Studies Fellowship to study Mixtec through a program by the University of California, San Diego.

While neither of us learned much Mixtec due to the complexity of the language, since saying Mixtec is like saying “Roman Languages,” which include French, Spanish, Italian, etc., we learned a great deal about indigenous culture and language structure.

Our connection, however, really took place outside of the classroom.  Olivia often accompanied me to my field site, and I would go to hers.  At the time, I was engaged in anthropological research in Oaxaca City aimed at understanding how people made use of the arts to contest state power.  Olivia was interested in indigenous dances as forms of performative expression.

We would sit at the cafe together and listen to the performers, dancing, and enjoying the art that surrounded us.  Then, I would accompany to local dances on pyramids and monuments.

boli y yo

me and Olivia

The real fun times came during our many, many nights at a local night club, Tentacion, which had live, local bands performing Musica Norteña on a balcony stage above our heads.  Through dance and our love of being in constant motion, our friendship flourished.

We, along with two of our classmates, also made a ridiculous voyage by bus, bike, and boat down to Guatemala to visit the historical site of Tikal, which was a total spiritual experience for me that I hope to tell you about when you are older.

What makes Olivia admirable and a good role model for you, my dear little girl, is her intense capacity to have faith in LOVE and her spirit for adventure.

During our last nights in Oaxaca, Olivia had the courage to love and return to Oaxaca in pursuit of that love.

Many of our conversations have been about the need for love in our lives in its multi-faceted forms – love of self, love of culture, love of soccer, love of life, love of travelling, and love of others.

I want so much for you to have the courage to love as you grow no matter the pain that might come.  Of course, I pray that you will never experience heartache, but I cannot protect you from the entirety of the world.  So, know that if someone ever breaks your heart, I will be there to help you mend the pieces.

Always be open to adventure.  Had I not met Olivia, I would have never went to Guatemala or learned what joy dancing quebradita is.

These days, Olivia continues to pursue her passion for life by teaching small children in California.  She will be applying for a Fulbright scholarship next year, and, soon after, she hopes to pursue a doctorate degree.

But, of course, what Olivia is most excited about is her new found love, who she met at a Ramon Ayala concert.  She is grateful to have found someone that is in tune with her life and values the things that she does.

I urge you, my little one, to have the courage to love, always, and never settle for less than what you deserve.

Wishing you a life full of joy,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Where Can I buy Organic in Newark, NJ? – Review of Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart

Living in an inner city with a limited income can create many barriers to accessing affordable organic food options. If you don’t own a vehicle, it becomes extra difficult.  In Newark, NJ, which is where I was born, raised and currently live, Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart has opened to fulfill the need for local access to organic products.

I discovered Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart after launching a complaint on my personal Facebook page about the lack of organic foods in the city.  Stop & Shop was two bus rides away from me, and the local Pathmark only carries very limited organic produce, which is very over-priced.  I, often, had to call in a favor to get a ride to the nearest supermarket with ample organic produce, which is a 25-30 minute drive from my house.  I was super excited when a friend mentioned Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, and I decided to talk a walk from my house in the Ironbound section of Newark to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart.  It was a nice, warm day and a great opportunity to take my daughter for a walk in her stroller, get some light exercise, and see what Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart had to offer my taste buds.

Located at 392 Broad Street near the heart of Newark’s business district, Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart is easily accessible by walking. You can also take the Newark Light Rail to the location from Newark Penn Station and get off near the Newark Main Library.  The market is located near the entrance/exit for route 280 on Broad Street by the Newark Bears’ Stadium. It is also easily accessible by bus since many lines run on Broad Street.  The hours of operation are 8:00 am to 7:00 pm Eastern Time on Monday thru Friday, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm on Saturday, and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on Sunday.

When I first walked in to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, the first thing I noticed was a single step to get into the supermarket, which I required that I lift up my daughter’s stroller.  It was easy enough for me to do so, but I imagine this could pose a problem for someone in a wheelchair or with a disability.  I would recommend that the owners put a ramp where the step is to make it wheelchair accessible.

Personally, I judge a market by its availability of produce.  I prefer to eat fresh produce in every one of my meals.  I do eat some grains, but I avoid boxed, packaged, and canned food.  I do consume them on occasion, but I try to eat food as close to its natural state as possible.    Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart’s produce section was very small for my preferences (see Figure 1), but it did carry some staple items.  There were broccoli, carrots, corn, nectarines, apples, pears, watermelon, and a few other items. Not all items, however, were organic, which is not necessarily a problem on its own.  I will talk more about the politics of organic labeling in a future post.  There were quite a few locally sourced produce items, but all in all, the produce section was quite small for my taste.  It lacked ample greens, which are my favorite thing in a market.  However, with a farmers’ market located a short walk away during the summer months, this is not a real problem for me.

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Figure 1

I was very excited to see environmentally friendly household and personal products (see Figure 2) at Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart, which are things I usually have to travel 20+ minutes away to get, as well.  I will definitely consider going to Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart when I need to restock on household products.

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Figure 2

There is no shortage of packaged organic goods, which I know many people are a fan of for reasons of convenience.  I purchased a package of flour to bake vegetable bread for my daughter.  I noticed that Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart carries a mix of both organic and conventional products.  You will see Eden Organics side by side with Goya products (see Figure 3).

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Figure 3

The freezer section (see Figure 4) also has a mixture of organic and conventional products.  As a vegan, it was great to see that the store carried vegan items as there tends to be a shortage of vegan options in Newark.    There were also quite a few drinks in the refrigerator, including one of my favorite coconut waters by Harmless Harvest (see Figure 5).

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Figure 4

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Figure 5

While I wish that Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart had a much larger produce section for the winter months and for days when the farmers’ markets are not in Newark, it is definitely a step forward in this wonderful Renaissance City.  Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart gets the Organic Melinda stamp of approval for being one of the first markets to actively promote organic produce in Newark, NJ and for carrying affordable options that are easily accessible to the Newark population as well as the wonderful and friendly customer service that I received.  Thank you Question Mart/ ?uestion Mart for doing your part to end food insecurity in our great city.

All photos taken by Organic Melinda (Melinda Gonzalez).