‘Soul Food Junkies’ Explores Black Prosperity Through Food
Documentary balancing tradition with health outcomes premieres Monday night.
Fried chicken. Smoked ribs. Cheesy grits. Bacon grease-flavored collard greens.
These American soul food staples grew out of an African American tradition in the South. But over the years, it’s become the scapegoat of bad health in the black community, and is the subject of the new hour-long documentary, “Soul Food Junkies.”
But this documentary, premiering Monday night on PBS stations, is not a long-winded complaint issued by the “plate police.”
Filmmaker Byron Hurt told Loop 21 that his late father’s battle with pancreatic cancer and years of weight fluctuations inspired a quest to determine whether soul food was the culprit. More than anything, exploring the topic helped him to understand why there is such an affinity for food that is proven to contribute to poor health outcomes for blacks.
“Soul food is very important to [African American’s] cultural identity,” Hurt said in a phone interview. “I totally understand why people would be sensitive to the idea of changing something that’s been around for so long.”
“I’m sensitive to that,” added Hurt, who grappled with his father’s refusal to change his diet even after he became sick.
African Americans, men in particular, have one of the worst life expectancy rates in the U.S, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Data kept by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health shows blacks, in 2010, were 1.4 times more likely to be obese as whites. A recent study found that younger Americans live in poorer health than people in other industrialized countries.
No study has concluded that high fat, high calorie soul food meals are a direct cause for these health concerns. But pancreatic cancer, said to be caused by over consumption of fried and grilled meats, is one of the leading forms of cancer in blacks, according to the CDC.
Hurt, a black man, isn’t out to take soul food away from African Americans.
“Towards the end of the film, we really emphasize making modifications to soul food, as opposed to changing it all together or saying that you can’t eat soul food anymore,” Hurt said.
View a snippet from “Soul Food Junkies” in the video player above. For local listings and air times, click here.