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How the creativity of plant-based restaurants can lead to healthier lives, especially in communities of color

Trio vegan
Posted at 10:14 AM, Dec 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-10 10:14:37-05

It is a statement that should come as no surprise.

“This is one of the hardest businesses to open up," said Louis Hunter. "If you can survive the restaurant business, you can do a lot.”

Inside Hunter’s Minneapolis restaurant, Trio, the menu may list comfort foods, but the ingredients are plant-based.

“People were thinking they were just plants and vegetables and you can have fun with plant-based food," Hunter explained.

Inside Trio's burritos, you'll find shredded jackfruit, and in the nachos, cashews are the substitute for ground beef.

He admits when his restaurant first opened, there wasn’t much diversity in the customers who came in.

“That’s what people thought, vegan and plant-based was just for white people," he said.

But he’s seen that change.

“A lot of the Black community had no idea of the plant-based, vegan eating, none of that," Hunter said. "When I first started, I had no idea. I knew none of that.”

Access to the right food is as much an issue of health as it is equity.

Hunter hopes by introducing more people to vegan food, he can help stop challenges that have lasted in communities of color for far too long.

“Number one, high blood pressure, diabetes, these are the things that we faced," Hunter said.

Nearly 1 in 4 Americas admit they are eating less meat, according to a Gallup Poll.

Studies have shown African Americans are one of the fastest-growing groups of people taking up vegan lifestyles.

Doctors say eating a plant-based diet can help lower the risk for heart disease, which the Black community is at the highest risk of any group.

“If there was a Trio back then, we probably wouldn’t have faced so much of that," Hunter said.

To understand the progress Hunter is working to make with each meal, you have to understand where his journey to this kitchen began.

In 2016, Hunter faced felony rioting charges in connection to a protest of the death of his cousin Philando Castile, who was killed by a police officer during a traffic stop.

“I was facing 20 years in prison," Hunter said.

He maintained his innocence and received support from countless members of the community.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about where I came from," Hunter said.

Prosecutors eventually dropped the charges over a lack of evidence.

“I could never have imagined in a million years, going from facing 20 years to now being the first Black owner of a plant-based restaurant in Minnesota,” he said.

Struggle is a common story for restaurants in this pandemic, but for Hunter, the struggle is what lead him here.

"We want to put it in the kid’s mouth. When you put it in the kid's mouth, we are going to create a habit and create a culture of everybody eating plant-based food,” Hunter said.

The ability to have a generational impact, created through passion and the power of food.