Meet Just Food Community Chef Marian Isel!

Bright orange carrots, vibrant greens and fresh fish sit just feet from the bustling intersection of Marion St. and Malcolm X Blvd in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn. Tables overflow with fresh fruit, homemade pies, green beans and ears of corn so sweet you can eat them raw. 
For the Reverends Robert and DeVanie Jackson of the Brooklyn Rescue Mission, the Malcolm X Blvd Community Farmers Market is a tool to promote healthy living and teach the families and youth of Central Brooklyn the importance of knowing where food comes from. The Jacksons established the market 4 years ago.
Like the 21 other community-run markets in the City Farms Market Network, the Jacksons went through Just Food’s market training program and have access to a host of support services. These include cooking demos led by Community Chefs like Marian Isel.
Marian (above with Youth Community Chef Andrew Chandler) has been a Just Food Community Chef for two years and began working at the Jacksons’ market this season. Each Saturday, she spends the day talking with customers and demonstrating how easy it is to make fresh delicious food with good quality ingredients.
On a late September morning, Marian grabs some cantaloupe and pears. She dices the fresh fruits and mixes them with granola, tangy cottage cheese and a drizzle of maple syrup. "A great end-of summer breakfast," she proclaims to a group of teenagers desperately trying to rush by and avoid eye contact. Her enthusiasm persuades them to stop and try a few bites; all of them came back for more. 
Marian loves connecting with her neighbors--sharing food and recipes sparks conversations about happenings in her community and in the lives of her neighbors. 
Reverend Robert Jackson has seen great changes at the market since the Community Chef Program began. He recalls a time he brought a whole stalk of corn to the market and adults couldn’t recognize what it was. "Now, neighbors don’t ask ‘what is this ingredient?’ They ask, ‘what’s a new way to cook it?’"
A former photo editor, Marian credits Just Food’s Community Chef training with providing skills like audience engagement, canning, pickling and working with herbs. She says it expanded her "culinary and community horizon" and takes these skills beyond the Malcolm X Blvd. Community Farmers Market. 
Now a certified holistic health coach, Marian works with individual clients and conducts workshops on health and wellness. She is a core group member of the Bed-Stuy Farm Share and maintains a wellness blog. 
This season, Marian has taken on a new challenge. She recently started working with Andrew Chandler, a member of Just Food’s Youth Community Chef pilot program. "I love working with youth," Marian says. "If you want to see where our world is headed, talk to the young ones."
Andrew was one of 14 youths who went through the training this June. The goal of the program is to educate youth about healthy food and to develop leadership skills. Since completing the training, Andrew has assisted Marian at the weekly Saturday markets. He helps prepare food and engages customers in hopes of drawing younger crowds to the table. Kids and adults alike are motivated by his age and dedication.
"Youth Community Chefs are involved in great things at such a young age," Marian adds. "There was no 'Just Food' in my life as a teenager and so I’m happy to help facilitate and support [a] program that opens doors for young people."
Click here for more information about The Malcolm X Blvd. Community Farmers Market and other markets in the City Farms Market Network.