CHICAGO — Fudge the Police — not just a family friendly wordplay on the 1988 N.W.A. rap hit, but a vegan ice cream flavor to benefit Black Lives Matter Chicago. The blend of mint cookies and cream, fudge and CBD was created by JUSTice Cream, a nonprofit ice cream shop focused not just on the flavors, but benefiting grassroots organizations like BLM Chicago.
JUSTice Cream works with local organizations to co-develop ice cream flavors that reflect a social justice issue, said founder Hialy Gutierrez. One hundred percent of the profits from each flavor go back to the organizations.
ABOLECHE ICE, a tres leches cake and strawberry blend, was co-created with Organized Communities Against Deportations. And profits from the churro-filled Fried Dough Kahlo benefit Art Resistance Through Education. The Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment’s flavor is Purple Root for Domestic Workers, made with ube purple yam.
Gutierrez said JUSTice Cream’s model will give more autonomy to its partner organizations than traditional funding sources. The grassroots organizers understand how to best serve their communities, she said, so providing them money should give them breathing room to do their work.
“I used to be a grant writer, and I noticed that one of the obstacles of (social justice) work is the lack of economic power and financial support,” Gutierrez said. “What organizations really need, from what I understand, is unrestricted funds.”
But it’s been a slow churn for JUSTice Cream. Gutierrez founded it as a passion project in 2017, but was sidetracked by the demands of school and work. This year she started the New Leaders Council Fellowship, a program that requires a capstone project. She decided to build out JUSTice Cream with the help of a few friends.
The vision, she said, was to create a model of a “new economy” that values people and communities over profit.
Gutierrez said JUSTice Cream is intentional about the organizations it partners with. “We choose organizations that have smaller budgets and that are run by organizers,” she said. “We want to work with communities that are really grassroots.”
While the concepts for the flavors are co-created with these partner organizations, JUSTice Cream recipe developer Janice Belen makes the product that goes in the pints.
Belen said she has a culinary background, but ice cream making has been a hobby of hers for almost ten years. Combining social justice and ice cream making is her dream job. “It’s ice cream,” she said. “It’s always been a source of joy for me.”
Belen’s challenge has been using limited resources — two-quart, countertop ice cream makers — to develop vegan recipes, which are harder to formulate than dairy ice creams, she said.
Vegan ice cream was an obvious choice for JUSTice Cream, not just to reduce the environmental footprint, but also because communities need healthier options, said Nicolette Stanton who advises on media content and outreach for JUSTice Cream. She also said many of the community organizers they work with are lactose intolerant.
JUSTice Cream is currently running a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the supplies they need to scale up. The biggest cost is a $58,000 ice cream machine that will give them the ability to make enough product for widespread distribution.
The goal is to raise $20,000 by August 1, and $180,000 by the end of the year, but the economic effect of COVID-19 has slowed donations. They are just over $5,000 away from the first goal. “It’s a really hard time to have a GoFundMe,” Gutierrez said.
Despite the pandemic, JUSTice Cream is still finding ways to engage the community. Last Saturday, the nonprofit held a fundraiser at Uptown’s Demera Ethiopian Restaurant, selling scoops to raise money for their partner organizations.
Starting this fall, Gutierrez said they hope to distribute pints through co-ops and local small businesses . With enough funding, she said JUSTice Cream will be able to ship out-of-state. “Eventually, the vision is for this model to be replicated in other cities so we can start to stimulate local economies around commodities,” Gutierrez said.
Thalia Ramirez, who does administrative work for JUSTice Cream, said the focus now is on creating excitement for a “non-dairy, nonprofit, women-of-color-led ice cream brand.” Ramirez said she hopes JUSTice Cream also inspires other brands to think beyond making a profit.
“It doesn’t all have to be about profit,” she said. “You can be nonprofit. You can care about the community.”
Stanton, looking forward to helping grassroots organizers continue their work in their communities, said, “I’m just ready to give the money away to the organizations.”
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