An Interview with Anzia Bennett, Executive Director
Local Hero: Best Nonprofit Organization
Photos by Stacey M. Adams
Top row, left to right: Craig Jones, Jaelyn Bransford, Josh Nez, Michael Sedillo, Julia Wall. Bottom row, left to right: Anzia Bennett, Cecelia Garcia, Erik Elkins, Jordan Billiot.
Anzia Bennett’s love of food and community drives her work. As founder and executive director of Three Sisters Kitchen in Albuquerque, she works with farmers, ranchers, health systems, and community-based organizations to develop wellness and economic engagement programs. These programs respond to community-articulated needs and address the social and structural determinants of health. Bennett received her masters degree in American Studies and in public health from UNM and sits on the boards of the Rio Grande Farmers Coalition and Working Classroom. She currently serves as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Culture of Health Leader.
How did Three Sisters come about and what was the need you saw in the community that Three Sisters could address?
Three Sisters Kitchen is a nonprofit community food space that uses the power and love of local food to create economic opportunity, improve community health, and bring our diverse communities together around the table. We spent years asking people all over New Mexico what they thought a “community food space” should be. What we heard was that people wanted a beautiful, welcoming, multigenerational space where they could share their food traditions, learn how to take control of their nutritional health, access affordable local food, and feel connected to where it comes from. [They also wanted to] explore their own food business dreams. The kitchen is designed for experimentation and exploration—whether it’s our own experimentation with how to pay a living wage and provide benefits to all of our employees, an entrepreneur exploring food business development, or a student using new techniques or ingredients in a community cooking class.
Tell us about some of the businesses that are utilizing Three Sisters.
We have amazing community partners who use our community classroom regularly for cooking classes, shared meals, and other events including Kids Cook!, Together 4 Brothers, Centro Savila, Street Food Institute, UNM Continuing Education, and many more. We host our own community nutrition classes; operate a food and nutrition program for home health aides in partnership with Encuentro, Meals on Wheels, and Presbyterian Healthcare; and offer a fifteen-week Food Business Training class twice a year with commercial kitchen access for graduates to use as they launch and scale their food businesses. Palm Trees Confections—an amazing vegan bakery and program graduate—is selling delicious baked goods all over the city now!
What have been some of your favorite classes or workshops that Three Sisters has hosted?
We are lucky to have so many incredible cooks share what they love in our community classroom. Kids Cook! leads monthly free family cooking classes and it is so fun to see kids of all ages cooking together and building their confidence in the kitchen. Beyond the Plate, a program of Lutheran Family Services’ Refugee Resettlement Project, runs cooking classes led by women from all over the world, building community around the table. Pasta M’ama’s Italian cooking classes are amazing. I learned how to make my first double-crust pie in a Pie Pals class. I could go on and on . . .
What is the most challenging part of running a nonprofit? What has been the most rewarding?
Securing the funds we need to operate a values-driven organization—ensuring that our programs are accessible, that we pay a living wage, that we prioritize the needs of local food producers—is challenging. That’s why we partner with so many other amazing organizations. We know that we are stronger together. It has been so exciting to watch the kitchen grow from an idea planted by a group of farmers in 2015 to a full-fledged organization employing fourteen people and providing space for so many different people to build and grow and eat together.
What are some of your favorite local food products?
Right now I can’t stop eating Red Tractor’s apricot jam, Pop Fizz’s mango paletas, Cornivore’s Rosemary Garlic Popcorn, NM Sabor’s green salsa, and Three Sisters Kitchen’s TSK Spice Shake.
What plans do you have for the future?
We are excited to relaunch our evening winter food market on Wednesday nights from 5 to 7pm. It will run from November 13 to December 11, and then every Wednesday in February and March, so people can buy directly from farmers, ranchers, and other food producers from all over the city in one spot. Our 2020 cooking class calendar is shaping up to be really great, too.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with edible readers?
Our Local Foods Shop and Café is open Monday through Friday from 7:00am to 2:00pm. Come enjoy a delicious meal and learn more about our community cooking classes, food business training programs, and other community events celebrating the power and love of local food!
109 Gold SW, Albuquerque, threesisterskitchen.org