Food for the Soul: Using Food to Create Community and Celebrate Black History Month


Courtesy of Marshall University YouTube

Kara Hornbuckle prepares food for the Food for the Soul event.

Bex Law, Student Reporter

COVID-19 ended the annual Food for the Soul Feast, a tradition since 2003, so Shaunte Polk from the Center for African American Students decided to transition Food for the Soul to an online cooking show.

“We’re sharing food and recipes we’ve known all our lives,” Polk said. Polk calls on students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members to film themselves making their favorite family recipe. The cooking show features food from various areas of Africa as well as traditional Black southern cuisine. 

Polk said a benefit to this cooking show is that learning about and sharing food is a great way to learn about other cultures. “Food does tie and bond people together,” Polk said. “And getting over the fear of trying something new can make a great experience; it’s a quick and easy way to experience a different culture.”

Two of Polk’s favorite recipes featured on the cooking show were jollof rice and Kara Hornbuckle’s honey cornbread. Polk said she had never heard of jollof rice, and now she frequently asks the original chef to make it for her.

Jollof rice is a tomato and pepper based fried rice. Many different regions in West Africa make jollof rice. However, a Nigerian recipe was shared on Food for the Soul last year. 

Alumna Hornbuckle shared her recipe for honey cornbread, a sweet cornbread similar to cornbread Hornbuckle said could be found in most Black households. The honey cornbread was Polk’s favorite recipe from this year.

Keeping this tradition alive and not letting COVID-19 cancel it completely was important to Polk. “Food and music bring folks together, but people always bond the most and learn the most through food. If we can share things that way, it’s the easiest and most fun way,” Polk said.

Polk said Food For the Soul is a community creation in hopes to somehow replicate the shared experience of sitting around a dinner table and sharing conversation and food. “I think everyone loved sampling different foods and sharing the table when Food For the Soul was in person. t’s super important and everyone benefits,” Polk said.

The final Food for the Soul during 2023 will be live on YouTube on Feb. 24 on Marshall University’s official YouTube channel.