An Interview with Anzia Bennett, Executive Director
Local hero – Innovator
Anzia Bennett, executive director, in the Three Sisters Kitchen cookbook library. Photo courtesy of Extended Play Photography.
Three Sisters Kitchen (TSK) is a nonprofit community food space that uses the power and love of local food to create economic opportunity, improve health, and bring diverse communities together around the table. They operate a commercial test kitchen for food business development; a community classroom for health, cooking, and nutrition workshops; and a local foods shop and café that celebrates the bounty of New Mexico.
Three Sisters is a community food space founded on a vision of bringing people together around the table. Why is that important? Have you found ways to sustain that vision during the pandemic?
Food brings us together in powerful ways—it connects us to place and to our histories and communities . . . and brings us joy. It also serves as a great way to explore how power works, and to imagine what healthy communities look and feel like. When we explore what a healthy food system means, we have to think about water, land, labor, health, equity, and justice. Our team has actually had a lot of fun finding ways to bring people together while staying home. In-person training programs and cooking classes moved online. People are excited to learn together and share space—even virtually. Thanks to generous donors, our ReFresh food access program pivoted from an in-person fruit and vegetable voucher program to delivering local food bags to one hundred fifty-plus households biweekly. While we wish we could do more, connecting people to free, fresh food and using our resources to purchase from local producers has felt really good.
Tell us about your Food Business Training Program. What challenges do entrepreneurs face in getting a new business off the ground? Have any program graduates launched a business or built on their success in 2020?
Food entrepreneurs face so many challenges: access to capital, finding affordable commercial kitchen space, navigating regulations. . . . Our program provides hands-on training and technical assistance for people wanting to start manufactured food businesses. We’re so excited about our graduates’ products: Polk’s Folly Farm’s sausages; Fiesta on Wheels’s salsas and vegan snacks; the Ferm Brinery and Bakehouse’s fresh-milled flour, coffees, and breads; the Blast’s hot tomato seasoning; Tempeh Underground’s local pinto tempeh; Coyotzin Mindfully Made Mexican Foods’s moles and salsas; Soma Ayurvedika’s chai tea mix and blue corn cookies; the Afghan Café’s frozen sambosas; Bar Hoppers’s grasshopper snacks; Ancestral Pathways Chocolates—and many more!
Relationships are central to your work at Three Sisters. Who are your strongest community partners?
Everything we do—from our name to our programs to our kitchen design—resulted from a two-year community-engaged planning process involving over two thousand people, and from continuing partnerships and collaboration. We wouldn’t exist without the hard work of local farmers, ranchers, and food producers. Street Food Institute helped create our Food Business Training Program. The ReFresh program is possible because of the creativity and commitment of MoGro Mobile Grocery. We learn so much from cohosting family cooking nights with Kids Cook!; exploring decolonizing our diets with Together For Brothers; thinking about mindfulness in the kitchen with Centro Sávila; learning about the powerful concept of food access as violence prevention with the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women; co-leading our food and nutrition training program for home health aides with Encuentro NM, Meals on Wheels of Albuquerque, and Presbyterian Healthcare Services; and so many other partnerships!
In 2018, edible New Mexico readers voted you Best Nonprofit. In 2019, readers voted you Innovator. What are some of your favorite stories about exploration and innovation at Three Sisters Kitchen?
For the last few years we’ve sponsored youth filmmaking workshops and produced videos celebrating New Mexico food stories in our Cooking for Generations project. This year we shifted to audio production, so young artists could explore new media and work safely from home. We are so excited to share the TSK Cooking for Generations podcast soon.
What are your plans and dreams for 2021? How can readers support your efforts?
We can’t wait to bring people together in our space again. We are also really excited to launch our new product line of granolas and spice shakes, TSK: Food Group.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?
Our commitment to community-engaged planning never ends. If you have ideas for TSK, we hope to hear from you!
To stay connected with Three Sisters Kitchen, visit
threesisterskitchen.org, follow them @ThreeSistersKitchenNM, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.