Vegan shop DaJen Eats Café & Creamery, which currently operates out of a gas station in Orlando, will expand to a full-service restaurant in historic Eatonville, FL—which was incorporated in 1887 as one of the country’s first all-black, self-governing towns, a necessity after the emancipation of slaves as local police precincts refused to protect black communities. In 2017, owner Jenneil “Jenn” Ross opened DaJen Eats at a Lee Citgo gas station and has since served her plant-based foods such as Crispy Chick’n Biscuit Sammiches, Buffalo Po’ Boys, Spicy Jerk Chicken Sandwiches inspired by her Jamaican heritage to a diverse customer base. Ross hopes the move to Eatonville will benefit the tightly knit community, where recent research showed that 24 percent of residents suffer from diabetes and 40 percent have high blood pressure. “When the average person thinks of a vegan, the image that comes up is not often of a person of color. In fact, there is this idea that veganism is not for black people,” Ross told VegNews. “This is an idea that I completely reject. I’m a living, breathing example that that is not true, and I grew up surrounded by living, breathing examples of the exact opposite.” Eatonville has already embraced the arrival of DaJen Eats as Ross was asked to be a presenter at this year’s Zora Tour—a series of events dedicated to Eatonville resident and noted author Zora Neale Hurston—and the restaurant was chosen to be a recommended lunch stop on the tour in January. Ross will source all of the organic vegetables and legumes she uses at DaJen Eats from community farm Eatonville Yards and Gardens Club. “Being able to open a restaurant in Eatonville affords me to live a bit like my grandmother, sort of carry on her legacy,” Ross said. “My grandmother had a lot of children and so for many years cooked great big pots of food.” Ross explained that her grandmother would continue to cook large amounts of food once her children left home and instead feed her local community. “Being in Eatonville feels like being able to feed family,” Ross continued. “I get to call people off the road and offer them some good home-cooking.”
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