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Good food nourishes and sustains the body. It connects us through shared meals, expanding and strengthening the web of relationships on which we depend. Yet a positive relationship with food, so elemental to the human condition and vital to health, is denied every day to people in prison.

Impact Justice’s six-part report, Eating Behind Bars: Ending the Hidden Punishment of Food in Prison  illuminates the dehumanizing prison food experience and how the lasting physical and psychological effects impact not only individuals, but also families, communities, and society as a whole.

Watch this virtual conversation as it explores the prison eating environment and its profound impacts on physical and emotional health, the relationship between food and trauma, and how we can begin creating healthier practices. The event features Anti Recidivism Coalition’s Executive Director and Impact Justice board member, Sam Lewis, and Leslie Soble, Impact Justice Research Fellow and lead author of our Eating Behind Bars report. The event is moderated by Aishatu Yusuf, Impact Justice’s Director of Innovation Programs.

About the speakers:

Sam Lewis is the Executive Director of the Anti Recidivism Coalition. Previously, Sam served as the Director of Inside Programs. A former life prisoner himself, Sam understands the various obstacles, challenges, and difficulties the prison and reentry populations face. In 2017, Sam created the Hope And Redemption Team (HART), a first-of-its kind initiative he built from scratch. HART is a group of nine former California life prisoners who go back into California state prisons to provide hope, demonstrate that redemption is achievable, and to prepare participants for successful reentry into our communities. His work directing HART exemplifies what’s best about ARC: our desire to reach and walk with those who have been most marginalized by society.

Sam previously worked with Friends Outside Los Angeles County as Job Specialist, Case Manager, Employment Programs Supervisor, and Project Director, roles that reinforced his commitment to creating opportunities for formerly incarcerated men and women as they transition back into society. In 2018, Sam was the recipient of a Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Award,  Uncommon Law’s Uncommon Heroes award, and 2019 Danger Man Award.

Leslie Soble (she/her/hers) joined Impact Justice in the fall of 2018 as a research fellow for the Food in Prison Project. An educator and ethnographer, Leslie is the founder and artistic director of Story Soup, a project that creates contexts for dialogue across cultural and generational borders through food and narrative. Her academic research focuses on food as a cultural text, aesthetic domain, and site of performance. Leslie currently serves as a teaching artist with various DC-based arts programs. She also has over a decade of experience designing and facilitating cultural competency workshops to explore identity, systems of oppression, and intercultural/intergenerational communication.

Leslie holds a B.A. in gender studies from Brown University, where her course of study focused on grassroots movements for social change. She received her M.A. in cultural sustainability, with a focus on the intersection of foodways, narrative theory, and social practice art, from Goucher College.

Aishatu Yusuf has spent the majority of her career working within multiple social systems with the purpose of creating better outcomes for marginalized youth, young people, and their families. Throughout her career, she has focused on child safety, youth, and adult legal system reform, child protection, and education policy. With the belief that change must be envisioned through an intersectional lens that captures race and gender identity, Aishatu has worked to reduce the education, health, and employment barriers for formerly incarcerated women; evaluated the strengths and needs of girls in gangs; and is currently working with the National Black Women’s Justice Institute on participatory research that addresses interrupting school to confinement pathways for Black girls and other girls of color.

Aishatu has worked with federal, state, and local governments to address issues that permeate the youth and adult legal system. She has presented her research at numerous conferences, has trained educators and law enforcement professionals across the nation, and has authored and co-authored various articles, book chapters, and other publications. Aishatu developed and led Impact Justice’s California Justice Leaders-AmeriCorps program that focuses on providing employment and training to formerly incarcerated individuals. As the director of innovation programs, she now leads a portfolio of transformational seed to scale projects including California Justice Leaders, the Homecoming Project, and Food in Prison.

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