Veganism in Urban Food Deserts

Night Owl Vegan

2. Zero Hunger 3. Good Health and Well-Being 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth 10. Reduced Inequalities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Night Owl Vegan provides ready-to-eat food options in an area where healthy prepared foods are not readily available at reasonable prices. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health released a report on food deserts and accessibility to healthy foods in the city, and they found that “a majority of the city’s food stores sell mostly unhealthy foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat” (Kellner). With this inequity in the prices and availability of healthy food, communities located in food deserts in Philadelphia are more likely to eat unhealthy diets and are more prone to health problems such as obesity and diabetes. This is an issue of inequality that poses a threat to the health and wellness of communities across the country, and Night Owl Vegan is offering a solution for Philadelphia communities through vegan, non-GMO meals delivered directly to customers' doors. With both her product and education initiatives, Sherimane is improving community health and wellness through a female and minority owned business, addressing SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger), 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), 10 (Reduced Inequalities), and 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

Authors

Kryslin Kane

Kryslin Kane

Julianne Sturm

Julianne Sturm

Amanda D'Amadeo

Amanda D'Amadeo

Alexandra Bewley

Alexandra Bewley

School

Saint Joseph's University

Saint Joseph's University

Professor

Ron Dufresne

Ron Dufresne

Innovation

Sherimane created Night Owl Vegan to help improve the health of her community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by making a plant-based diet more accessible as well as to change the perception around veganism. She provides locally sourced, affordable plant based options that require no preparation. Customers can choose from the three meals, five meals, or a la carte options for the week at affordable prices to increase accessibility for customers. All of the food served by Night Owl Vegan is vegan friendly and focused on the health benefits. Along with her son, Sherimane hand delivers each meal to their customers. Sherimane stated with a smile on her face, “Whenever my son delivers food to our customers, he says that everyone is always smiling and so excited to get the bag of deliveries. It is such a great feeling to know that you are really pouring into people.”

Sherimane is motivated to improve the health of an underserved community where healthy options are sparse, and to combat chronic illness and disease with a sustainable diet. These goals correlate with SDGs 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and 10 (Reducing Inequalities). Night Owl Vegan is also focused on SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). The company uses recyclable packaging, locally grown produce, and only vegan ingredients which is more beneficial for the environment. Sherimane also emphasizes SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) with a lowest paid wage of $15.00 per hour, nearly double Pennsylvania’s minimum wage. Sherimane said that it is important to her that she is paying a fair wage to her employees, and though this is a difficult expense to cover as a small business, she also feels that it is the right thing to do for her employees and her community.

Veganism in Urban Food Deserts

Inspiration

Sherimane was inspired by her own life experiences to start Night Owl Vegan, and used this inspiration to make a positive impact within her community. After losing her grandmother to Type 2 Diabetes, and then later being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes herself, Sherimane changed her philosophy around the food she was eating and the impact it had on her health as she found the correlation between food and medicine. As a result of her experience, Sherimane began to remove meat and dairy from her diet, and started to feel better without having to use medicine. Sherimane realized that the food people eat is powerful and a critical aspect of one's well-being. Growing up, Sherimane always heard the phrase "each one teach one," meaning people should share their knowledge with others. Sherimane stated, "I know the suffering of my community in regards to diabetes and high blood pressure and not really understanding how important it is that you are intentional about what you eat, what you listen to, what you believe in, what you feel. All of that has an impact on your health and your ability to heal yourself." As a result of recognizing how much changing her diet changed her overall health, she created Night Owl Vegan to help educate and provide for her community, helping them to live healthier, happier lives through plant-based eating.

Overall impact

Night Owl Vegan has a focus on helping individuals in Philadelphia, specifically those living in food deserts, to have access to nutritious yet good tasting food. After being inspired by her own experiences of changing her eating habits, Sherimane wanted to help others in her community who struggled with similar health issues and were unaware of the importance of the impact of the food they are eating on their health. Without the option of fresh food nearby, people living in communities labeled as food deserts tend to resort to eating more fried foods and foods without nutritional benefits, as they do not have easy access to fruits and vegetables. As a result, Sherimane wanted to provide a healthier and more readily accessible option for her community. Night Owl Vegan has impacted these local communities by serving 365 customers throughout the Philadelphia community in the last 12 months. Along the way, Night Owl Vegan provides their customers with information about vegan eating, helping to educate them about the power of eating the right food as they care greatly about the well-being of their community and customers. Sherimane stated, “If you give customers good food and then feed them information little by little about how their choice is helping the planet cumulatively, then they move their mindset in a different direction of wanting to make a difference.”

Business benefit

Night Owl Vegan is a woman- and minority-owned business. Currently Sherimane and her son are the only employees. Sherimane knows that she could make more money elsewhere but is driven by her "why" of serving her community with healthy foods in a convenient manner as she is beyond passionate about her business and the impact she can create specifically in traditionally underserved communities.

Veganism impacted Sherimane’s life so much that she left her previous job to show others how healing eating a plant based diet can be, especially in fighting certain diseases. She is relentless in spreading awareness about how important a healthy diet is to your health. Because of Sherimane, more members in the Philadelphia community are becoming educated about the importance of healthy eating. Also they are learning that with Sherimane, this healthy eating is accessible and can still taste good.

Night Owl Vegan has filled a massive need in their area. Their customer base now has access to healthy delicious food in a food desert. Sherimane saw the need for healthy food in a food desert and created Night Owl Vegan to serve these customers. As a result, her business is addressing a greater issue at hand through an innovative approach and bringing people together. The impact Sherimane has already had on her community reinforces her decision to continue to create meals through Night Owl Vegan, with a focus on reaching a wider customer base and expanding the company further to make an even greater impact.

Social and environmental benefit

Night Owl Vegans' food is aimed at making customers become healthier without giving up the tastes of foods that they love. In this way Night Owl Vegan focuses on SDG 3 as they promote good health and well-being through enjoyable eating. Sherimane stated, “Traditionally, most people think that vegan is a gross soy patty that no one wants to eat. I wanted to change around this stigma of vegan food and offer a healthy, yet tasty alternative.” Sherimane specifically focuses her efforts on helping those located in food deserts that might not realize the impacts of healthy food on their body. By providing food that is healthy, yet tastes good, she is taking care of her community in a unique and thoughtful way. This care for society is shown through Sherimane's efforts for her the community as well as for employee well-being. As mentioned previously, Night Owl Vegan prides themselves in that they pay their employees above minimum wage, paying $15 an hour, addressing SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth). Sherimane cares deeply about paying employees the amount that they deserve even when her competition around her does not pay their employees at the price point that she does.

Additionally, Night Owl Vegan delivers their products in environmentally friendly recyclable containers, emphasizing SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). This initiative helps alleviate the use of plastic, which is known for its negative environmental impacts. Sherimane also focuses on the environment by never using meat or dairy in her products which are known to be resource-intensive food processes.

Interview

Sherimane Johnson, Sherimane Johnson

Photo of interviewee

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Night Owl Vegan

Night Owl Vegan

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US

Business Website: https://nightowlvegan.com

Year Founded: 2018

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Night Owl Vegan is a prepared meal delivery company that provides vegan, plant-based options and that directly supports underserved populations living in food deserts. The business is owned and operated by Sherimane Johnson who founded the company to educate the community on the benefits of plant-based eating while providing healthy and delicious options to customers. Night Owl Vegan is fighting to improve community health and wellness, combat chronic diseases, and make veganism more accessible to underserved communities.