Women of Color Lead the Way in Wilmington’s Health Food Scene

Women of color working to bring a healthier lifestyle to their local community define Wilmington's plant-based food scene.

Women of color often face desperate challenges when it comes to food security and access to more nutritious food options. Wilmington’s health food scene, though, is proudly led by women of color hoping to change those statistics—and working hard to do so.

According to the CDC, Black women were 50 percent more likely to be obese than white women in 2018. Food deserts—low-income areas that lack access to healthy food options—are more common in neighborhoods which primarily house people of color. With food insecurity disproportionately affecting the Black community, it is increasingly difficult for those living in primarily Black neighborhoods to build and maintain healthy habits.

In Wilmington, we’ve seen women of color take matters into their own hands. You likely know the names of these health food spots across the city, but what you may not know is these businesses are all Black women-owned and -operated. Along with serving up mouthwatering plant-based foods, these women have taken on the roles of educators, mentors and friends to those looking to make healthier lifestyle choices. These three Black women-owned businesses prove that women of color are leading the way in the local health food movement.

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The Juice Joint 2.0

The original Juice Joint at Wilmington’s Riverfront was a staple in the Delaware health food scene. Lanice Wilson, the Juice Joint’s founder and one of Delaware Today’s Top Women in Business, has resurrected her beloved beverage boutique at a storefront on South Union Street. With protein-packed smoothies, cold-pressed juices, breakfast-themed bites, smoothie bowls and herbal supplements, this is a one-stop shop for nutrition.

The B.E. Suite—which stands for Black Excellence—is a collaborative space that operates after-hours in the building.

Lanice Wilson
Lanice Wilson as seen in Delaware Today’s 2023 Top Women in Business-Photos by Maria DeForrest, Angie Gray, Deny Howeth and Becca Mathias.

“One of the things that stuck out to me was although I had this amazing space, the Juice Joint closed at 4 p.m.—from 4 until 7 in the morning, nothing happened,” she says. “I was not generating any revenue.” So she came up with the new suite concept as a way to collaborate with like-minded brands and generate revenue after hours. As part of the B.E. Suite, Wilson will host health-centric business owners like yoga instructors, a self-defense instructor and a gun-safety expert, among others.

Delectablez

Delectablez CEO, founder and head chef Tamara Earl is all about guilt-free eating. She began following a vegan lifestyle after the birth of her son.

“One time I was feeding my son, and I couldn’t read the ingredients on the label,” explains Earl. “So I started typing in these long words.”

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What she discovered was a long list of questionable products and a myriad of health issues potentially related to those products. That was enough to inspire a lifestyle change. With a culinary background and degree in culinary arts, Earl took to the kitchen to begin experimenting with plant-based ingredients that aren’t as heavily processed. This experimentation brought about a vegan cheese that she sells wholesale to local pizza restaurants like Pizzeria Bardea and Pizzeria Mariana. It also led to a retail career—selling frozen vegan pizzas to local ShopRite stores. When the time came for brick-and-mortar, there happened to be a spot open in the popular downtown Wilmington food hall, DE.CO.

Delectablez, one of many exceptional health food restaurants in Wilmington owned by women of color
Delectablez CEO, founder and head chef Tamara Earl cooks up a variety of vegan dishes from behind her counter inside DE.CO. Photo by Sydney Livingston.

Now, her corner booth in DE.CO boasts a menu filled with options for long-time vegans, vegan-curious diners or anyone who loves good food.

“We have vegan food for vegans and non-vegans,” she says.

Rooted AF

Nikita Thomas is the sole owner of both fast-casual vegan restaurant Rooted AF and plant-based herbal remedy company Gods Green EarthRX. As a nutritionist-turned-restaurateur, Thomas dedicates nearly all of her time to spreading the good word about how eating the right food can improve your mind, body and spirit. The menu at Rooted AF is inspired by what Thomas calls “American favorites,” emphasizing dishes inspired by every culture that forms the American “melting pot.”

Rooted AF staff member Kam with owner Nikita Thomas. Photo by Sydney Livingston.

Known especially for incredible vegan empanadas with Beyond Meat and vegan cheese, Rooted AF has quickly become a staple in Wilmington’s vegan dining scene. For Thomas, it’s all about furthering the goal of overall health and wellness in her local community and beyond.

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vegan empanada

“Most restaurants are opened by chefs,” she says. “I’m a nutritionist. My lens is different.”

A chef can, in good conscience, feed patrons whatever tastes the best, as long as it’s well-executed, but it’s not always that simple for Thomas. Her outlook and education prevent her from cutting corners on nutritional value and quality. It’s safe to say that her patrons don’t mind the lack of professional culinary background. With high-quality ingredients, great flavors and a health-conscious vision, Thomas has certainly discovered the “secret sauce” when it comes to great fast-casual vegan food.

Did we miss your favorite Wilmington area, Black woman-owned health food business? Reach out to our digital editor, Sydney Livingston at slivingston@delawaretoday.com

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