‘Fuel The People:’ Roodharvens Joseph ’22 helps found organization feeding frontline protestors

By Regina Fontanelli

Roodharvens Joseph ’22 serving protestors at the Black Women’s March at Gracie Mansion (Home of Bill DeBlasio). (Roodharvens Joseph)

“What talents do you have that help set people free?” Roodharvens Joseph ’22 and his sister Gaïana Joseph asked themselves when they established their nonprofit, Fuel The People. For them, the answer was cooking. Driven by the belief that healthy food is the fuel for the revolution and called to action by the protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others, the siblings prepared over 450 meals in their Yonkers home to hand out on the streets to hungry New York City protesters. After seeing the immediate impact they made on their first day of handing out meals, they knew they had to continue to feed the people — and Fuel The People was born.

“Every effort of resistance had a support system,” Roodharvens Joseph said. “Throughout every revolution, there have been people contributing whatever they can toward the cause. For Fuel The People, it’s food, water and essentials.”

Fuel The People emphasizes the importance of access to healthy food for the liberation and prosperity of Black communities. In their mission statement, they write “Black people need healthy food to live healthy lives and to continue being happy, to continue loving each other and finally to be our best selves for ourselves and for each of our respective communities.”

Not only does Fuel The People aim to feed protestors on the front lines, they also look to make a long term difference by creating pathways to healthy food for Black communities — communities that are disproportionately affected by food deserts because of a history of redlining and racist government policies.

Fuel The People estimates that it has provided around 6,000 meals since first hitting the streets on June 2. Since that first day in their Yonkers kitchen, they’ve also teamed up with Allegra Massaro and her brother Lorenzo Massaro to establish a chapter in Washington, D.C. Roodharvens Joseph is currently Chief Technology Officer and Volunteer Coordinator. He’s happy he can use his passion and knowledge for food, sociology and computer science to help power the movement.

In the short time since its development, Fuel The People has garnered a significant amount of attention and support. They’ve been featured by several social media platforms, including First We Feast, Taste, the Tasting Table, Punch, Saveur, Food52, Afar, Cherrybombe and more. They’ve collaborated with 15 BIPOC-owned restaurants in both Washington D.C. and New York City. The organization has plans for more collaborations in the future. 

“My sister and I hustled, posted asking for donations for this simple project but then it blew up,” Roodharvens Joseph said. “In 48 hours we raised four thousand dollars so at that point we knew more had to be done.”

The siblings went on to manifest their vision of a well-fed movement and a healthy, liberated community. While Fuel The People has already accomplished a lot, their work is far from finished. 

“We are always looking for donations and volunteers. The more people we have going through the crowd handing out supplies, the more outreach. So the more hands the merrier,” Roodharvens Joseph said.

Then he flashed back to their early days, back to the first protest with just himself, his sister and their two friends trying to hand out 450 sandwiches.

“It was so hectic trying to get all of that food out. We ended up distributing food until 7:20 p.m. in front of Trump Tower. Mind you curfew was at eight.”

Fuel The People has big plans for the future but emphasizes the importance of sponsorships and donations to making their mission a reality. After all, the siblings believe that the revolution is far from over and that the conversation around equal access to healthy food has just begun. On August 28th, they plan on bringing Fuel The People to Al Sharpton’s March on Washington. They’ve partnered with the National Action Network and hope to raise $30,000 to feed over 10,000 protestors. 

Their website reads, “The fight for liberation and justice goes beyond protests, and we must remember that Black joy and prosperity are also worth fighting for. ”

While Roodharvens Joseph and his co-founders continue their work, individuals can contribute to their efforts through either donating or signing up to volunteer on their website.