Juiced for Food Justice
Organic smoothies and community spirit flow at Super Juiced
by Rachel Trachten | photos by Carmen Silva
Emanne Desouky and her partner Rana Halpern share deep roots in community organizing and a strong commitment to a healthy lifestyle. When they couldn’t find an organic juice bar in Oakland, they started one, first holding a series of pop-ups, and then opening a brick-and-mortar shop in the courtyard of Swan’s Market.
Most days, a steady stream of locals stop in at Super Juiced to order tonics, juice blends, smoothies, and house-made nut milks. Customers are often greeted by name. On a busy Thursday, when the juicer is humming nonstop, even the couple’s toddler Naya stops by with her grandma to say hello.
“There’s a historical tradition of people being very conscious about what they’re eating in connection with social justice movements,” says Desouky, citing the 1969 Black Panthers’ free breakfast program as an example. She and Halpern are busy organizing a local support network of small businesses owned by people of color, many with similar foundations in social justice work.
As they launched, the two connected with Mamacitas Cafe, a social enterprise that trains young women who face significant barriers to employment, and with Reem’s, a bakery and caterer known for traditional Arab street food. Desouky’s family is from Egypt, and she has long been involved with the Arab community in San Francisco’s Mission district, helping new immigrants find resources and legal services. Sharing know-how as a business owner is an extension of her community-minded ethic, and she’s also concerned about the need for emotional support systems. “A lot of us are first-time business owners, many of us have young children, and we’re balancing a lot of things in our lives,” she says.
Halpern, who handles the financial side of Super Juiced, also helps nonprofits and other small businesses with bookkeeping. She’s found inspiration from two neighbors: Swan’s Market chef/owners Sarah Kirnon of Miss Ollie’s and Dominica Rice-Cisneros of Cosecha. “There was a lot of cross exchange and sharing of resources,” she says. “They helped us prepare for the health department, and Sarah was able to help connect us with different farms.” (Super Juiced now gets regular deliveries from Feral Heart, Dig Deep, and Kashiwase Farms.) Halpern is eager to pay it forward by advising other small business owners on how to get loans and keep up with all the required filings. “It’s hard to navigate the little pieces,” she says.
In what Desouky describes as “a huge moment of resource sharing,” she followed the example set by Mamacitas Cafe for hiring, taking on interns coming out of the ELEVATE program at Oakland agency Beyond Emancipation. That program helps young people who have been in foster care or been incarcerated find work that emphasizes leadership skills. Super Juiced hired two ELEVATE interns. Desouky says, “We’ve watched them flourish.” One intern moved on, while Sundara Englin, a 23-year-old previously in foster care, was promoted to assistant manager.
“I was skeptical about working here at first,” says Englin. “I was scared because I’d never worked in a kitchen. I thought I’d mess up a lot, but they said it’s OK, it’s your first time.” According to Desouky, Englin’s professional and customer service skills have blossomed: “Now she’s capable of pretty much running the shop on her own.”
Englin says her eating habits have changed dramatically in her year at Super Juiced. “I learned about all types of different fruits and vegetables that before I wouldn’t eat or even look at,” she says. And she was shocked to learn that purslane, which grows out on the street, is a healthy ingredient in the juices. “I thought it was just a weed,” she says. She’s partial to the shop’s Sunset Glow combo of orange, carrot, apple, ginger, and orange blossom water.
A customer walks in and Englin greets her by name, then calls out, “Rana, Cacao Moon,” to alert Halpern to prepare this woman’s regular order: a blend of almond milk, banana, maca veggie protein, almond butter, raw cacao, chia seeds, and pink salt. A few minutes later, Englin heads out to the garden to pick limes and mint for various drinks. Super Juiced grows an array of herbs to use in tonics along with figs, pomegranates, and passion fruit to top seasonal acai bowls. All ingredients are organic, and keeping the menu as affordable as possible is a priority. The store offers a 15% discount to Oakland Unified School District staff and lower-priced juice packages for those who are ill, and they hope to offer juicing workshops in the Oakland schools in 2017.
“This started with us wanting to make changes individually and personally, being so happy with the results, and wanting to make healthy, organic foods accessible to our community,” says Halpern. Each drink is made with care and offered with a spirit of welcome. “Everybody is family,” says Englin. “No one is an outsider.”
Edible East Bay’s associate editor Rachel Trachten writes about food, cooking, and gardens as tools for education and social change. She takes time out from magazine work for choral singing. View her stories at racheltrachten.contently.com and get in touch at rachel(at)edibleeastbay.com.
For Oakland-based photographer Carmen Silva, interests in visual storytelling and positive social transformation run deep. In addition to photography, she produces commercials and videos, and advises social enterprises and NGOs on communication and messaging. You can reach her at csreach(at)yahoo.com.