Omari Al-Qadaffi, 37 

Community Organizer

click to enlarge omari8.jpg

Scott Elmquist

Omari Al-Qadaffi has had a heart for social justice since childhood. He was the kid who sent a handwritten letter to the president about the injustice of keeping killer whales in captivity after he learned about Sea World. Now as an adult, the community organizer focuses his efforts and energies on the people and problems right outside his own front door.

An advocate for low-income communities of color, Al-Qadaffi has worked with residents on issues like affordable housing, transportation, education and food accessibility. He's a driving force behind the Food Justice Corridor, an initiative with the Kinfolk Community Empowerment Center that aims to address economic and health disparities through urban agriculture. And like so much of the work he does, it's about engaging and involving the community, not telling them what they need.

"A goal of the Food Justice Corridor is for the impacted residents to be a part of the solutions," he says.

He's working with the Richmond Health District to address the need for higher-quality, healthy food, especially in public schools.

"The data shows that there's this intersection between nutrition, academic performance and disruptive behavior," he says. "If you aren't eating well, then it's going to affect your behavior and your academics."

He also doesn't buy into the notion that kids just don't want to eat food that's good for them. He discovered his love for Brussels sprouts in his own childhood cafeteria, and his favorite dishes to cook at home are vegetable stir fry, bean burgers and salmon cakes.

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