Hip-hop icon and vegan activist RZA recently teamed up with plant-based cheese giant Violife for the 2021 Plant Grants program, and the winners were just unveiled. The partnership announced that it would select five Black-owned restaurants to receive $20,000 each to aid plant-based menu development and enhance community outreach efforts. The program will extend to mentorship programs that will work directly with the businesses to optimize their menu development.

The Plant Grants program – developed by Violife’s parent company Upfield – aims to rehabilitate Black-owned restaurants across the United States that have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the 2021 Plant Grants program, we’re tackling plant-based food inequity head-on by empowering Black-owned restaurants to offer more plant-based dishes to their communities – dishes that will delight customers and keep them coming back for more,” Head of Away from Home Marketing for Violife USA Lisa Akey said.

The five restaurants chosen for the 2021 grants include Chattanooga, Tennesee’s Plant Power Cafe & Juice Bar; Shreveport, Louisiana’s Vegan on the Run LLC; Houston, Texas’s Meek’s Vegan Pizza; New York City’s Seasoned Vegan; and Philadephia’s Supreme Oasis Bakery and Deli (SOBAD). The selected restaurants will work with Violife’s grant program throughout the year to encourage all customers to try delicious plant-based dishes nationwide.

The Wu-Tang founding member joined Violife’s Plant Grants campaign due to his own experience with a plant-based diet. The vegan advocate went plant-based when he realized the nutritional and sustainable value that cutting out animal products held. Sharing his own story, RZA explained why he decided to join the movement and assist the grant program in helping promote plant-based eating in communities across the United States.

“I’m excited to work with the Plant Grants restaurants because they are on the front line of the plant-based revolution in their communities, through their recipes and the individual touch they put on their dishes to give their customers a great meal,” said RZA. “We are what we eat.

“For me, that means I still get to eat cheese – vegan cheese from Violife – and with their help, I get to convince people to switch to foods made from plants because they taste good, they’re affordable, and there is a whole lot of variety to choose from. It’s a journey, which is why we need more restaurants like these grantees to help show us the way with delicious plant-based food.”

The 2021 Plant Grants program also enlisted two prominent vegan restauranteurs that will help develop vegan recipes and innovate the chosen restaurants’ menus. Chef Larissa Chandler Baker of Chicago’s Can’t Believe It’s Not Meat and Chef Lemel Durrah of California’s Compton Vegan will join the Plant Grants recipients as the 2021 Plant Grants Chef Mentors.

Plant Power Cafe & Juice Bar, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Aurellia Alexandre opened her Plant Power Cafe & Juice Bar in November 2016, providing Chattanooga consumers with its first plant-based restaurant. The Plant Grants website remarks that the restaurant has been a “turning point” for the community, bringing nutritious vegan comfort food with easy access and reasonable prices.

Vegans On The Run, Shreveport, Louisiana

Vegans on the Run LLC is a family-owned, women-owned plant-based restaurant that wants to give back to the community. Operated by Dr. Joslin Mar-Dai Pickens, her mother Linda Pickens, her daughter Jalynn Mar’Dai, and her sister Dr. Kimberly, the restaurant offers traditional comfort food using completely vegan ingredients. The company also hosts free cooking classes for college students and provides free meals for the elderly.

Supreme Oasis Bakery and Deli (SOBAD), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Nuyen Emanuel and her daughter, Shon currently operate an increasingly vegan restaurant. Originally founded 30 years ago by Emanuel’s father, the menu is moving closer to becoming completely (or nearly) plant-based. Shon, known as the “vegan goddess” by loyal customers, has inspired the bakery and deli to incorporate more plant-based options. SOBAD also partners with local universities, hospitals, and charitable organizations to provide free meals across the community.

Seasoned Vegan, New York City, New York

Seasoned Vegan located in New York City’s Harlem is owned and operated by the mother-son duo Brenda and Aaron Beener. The menu offers a delicious selection of 100 percent vegan dishes that the Beener’s call vegan soul food. The plant-based dishes are globally inspired with a twist from the Beener cookbook.

Meek’s Vegan Pizza, Houston, Texas

Chef Demetrius Walker is a native New Yorker who is bringing his vegan twist on New York-style pizza to the people of Houston. The plant-based pioneer is working to introduce customers to vegan food through one of the most popular food dishes in the United States. Meek’s Vegan Pizza is Walker’s final result after years of attempting to find vegan foods for his nine-year-old son.

The 6 Best Fast Food Chains With Plant-Based Options on the Menu

Fast-food restaurants have finally got the memo that their customer base isn’t just coming through for a burger, fried chicken, or a beef taco. Many now have plant-based foods and are coming up with creative, delicious ways to get more greens on the menu. Here are the 6 best fast food chains with plant-based options on the menu.