Community Member Spotlight: Ben Miller and the People’s Kitchen

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Interview Credit: Isabella Ntigbu, 2023-2024 Penn Medicine Center for Health Justice Medical Student Fellow/University of Pennsylvania Medical Student

Hailing from the Cobbs Creek neighborhood in West Philadelphia, Mr. Ben Miller is a chef, farmer, activist, and co-founder of acclaimed taqueria, South Philly Barbacoa, and the People’s Kitchen, a free community-centered kitchen which has served over 300,000 free meals since the onset of the pandemic. Ben holds a unique perspective on food, and believes it can serve as a platform for the unification of art, philosophy, culture, community, and the natural world. It’s this comprehensive vision that has driven him to passionately embrace the culinary arts as his professional calling.

Since its inception, The People’s Kitchen has served as a living example of the value of food creation and its impact on various facets of the human condition. In 2021, Ben leveraged the momentum from the Kitchen to establish a community farm at the intersection of 61st and Reinhard streets, close to his residence. This endeavor transformed vacant lots into spaces of growth and beauty, allowing the community to cultivate food, engage in education about diverse plants, and enhance their culinary practices. The farm’s evolution continued with the installation of a hoop house in 2023, creating a resilient sanctuary for plants to thrive, shielded from the elements. This space is set for further transformation with a grant-funded project that invites Gabrielle Patterson, a renowned illustrator and animator, to lead a creative beautification initiative. The future of the People’s Kitchen holds promise with upcoming artistic and culinary events, and will conclude this year with a community harvest banquet in the fall. This closing reception will feature the final showcasing of the newly-improved hoop house, accomplished by Gabrielle and community members, and the evening will be rounded out with appetizing food prepared by the Kitchen’s talented culinary artists. To those who are interested in the work of The People’s Kitchen, volunteer opportunities are available on the organization’s website (listed below). 

As a 2023 recipient of the Deeply Rooted Community Green Grant award, Mr. Miller recognizes the necessity of Deeply Rooted in the Cobbs Creek community. He states that, “[the Community Green Grant] supported the development and beautification of the land, growing food for the community, and supporting the activities of the community kitchen in South Philadelphia. The kitchen produces hundreds of meals per week along with students and community volunteers, utilizing food rescued from local pantries and wholesalers, donations, and food from the farm. The Community Green grant empowers and sustains projects like these to promote health and well being in Philadelphia neighborhoods. UPenn and the community leaders involved in the Deeply Rooted Community Green project are promoting a healthy vision of community and nature, and empowering projects like the People’s Kitchen to execute that work.” 

His statement highlights the transformative impact of the grant, which provides the necessary financial support to promote community wellness, and emphasizes the pivotal role that Deeply Rooted plays in the Cobbs Creek community. 

We are proud of the numerous achievements that Mr. Ben Miller and The People’s Kitchen have accomplished in the Cobbs Creek and wider Philadelphia community, and look forward to what awaits this trailblazing organization.

Stay in Touch with The People’s Kitchen:

Instagram: @Peopleskitchenphilly

Email:  peopleskitchenphilly@gmail.com

Website: www.peopleskitchenphilly.com

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