Kitchen medicine with the youth and residents of the Bay Street Neighborhood Council

By Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, NOFA/Mass Food Access Director

A person standing behind a counter talking to a group

Nathalie Fischer-Rodríguez of the People’s Medicine Project speaks to the youth leaders of the NOFA/Mass Food Access Program in Springfield, MA.

During the months of February, March and April, the youth leaders from Home City Housing and some of the residents of the Bay Street Neighborhood Council welcome Nathalie Fischer-Rodríguez from the People’s Medicine Project.

The People’s Medicine Project seeks to address community health disparities by increasing access to complementary and alternative healing modalities. They envision an inclusive culture of wellness, based on an empowered connection to personal health, the earth, and each other. ​They are based in the Greenfield, MA area, however they conduct herbal health clinics, trainings, and classes in Hampden County (Springfield), Hampshire County and Franklin County. The collaboration with Home City Housing focuses on connecting youth and community members with folk medicine and traditional healing practices that are based in Black, Latinx and African origins.

Nathalie Fischer-Rodríguez is an Afro-Latinix Herbalist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Her demonstrations for the youth leaders and Bay Street residents over the past couple of months used herbs that are easy to access, and that may be added to the area’s community garden. In February the demonstrations included making teas from herbs that could be easily grown locally: tulsi basil, lemon balm, and lavender. Nathalie gave samples of each tea to the youth, who really enjoyed sampling the teas and making syrups/decoctions. The lemon balm tea was the favorite of the youth and will decidedly be grown in the Tapley Court Garden this coming year.

A bowl of dried dandelion roots with a booklet on the table next to it.

Dried Dandelion Root

Ryan Santiago, one of the youth leaders, felt that the teas would help him sleep better at night and when he sampled the teas, it actually had him resting on the spot. Later he mentioned, “That was the best sleep I have had in a long time. I even worked better at school the next day.”  Nathalie believes that it is important to introduce youth to natural ways of bringing relaxation and peace, without the use of narcotics or other harmful drugs that are often available in BIPOC communities. 

This past month the youth were introduced to dandelion root and burdock root – herbs that detoxify the body, remove toxins from the blood, fight inflammation and treat skin issues,  among other wonderful properties. In April the workshop will turn to planning the medicinal herb garden for the Tapley Court Garden with a few tastings of new herbs.

A bowl of chopped, dried burdock root on a picnic table

Dried Burdock Root

The Tapley Court Garden is entering its 5th year of growing, managed by a partnership between Home City Housing and NOFA/Mass. It is a community/youth driven project and this year the program will expand to include the families of Sherman Street and the Bay Street Neighborhood Council. Look for more storytelling from the youth and families about the progress of the garden in upcoming articles.

For more information concerning the NOFA/Mass Food Access Program, or if you wish to donate directly to the program, feel free to contact Anna Gilbert-Muhammad at