Soul Food Junkies

Soul Food Junkies

  • BY Byron Hurt | IN Food
    Premiered January 14, 2013

About the Film

Filmmaker Byron Hurt grew up eating lots of soul food: grits and scrambled eggs covered with cheese, buttered biscuits smothered with gravy, bacon, collard greens seasoned with ham hocks, fried pork chops, macaroni and cheese, deep-fried chicken, fried fish, barbecue chicken and ribs, candied yams coated with cinnamon and brown sugar, and other delicious but fatty foods right out of the black southern tradition. MORE

Both of his parents are from Milledgeville, Georgia, a small southern town. It’s a place where soul food is beloved by black and white folks alike. Soul food is a long held culinary tradition passed down from generation to generation, and is a source of pride for many black people. Some soul food, depending on how it is prepared, can be good for you. But when it is cooked with lots of fat, sugar, and salt — which is often the case — it can lead to obesity and other health issues.

Hurt can speak from personal experience. From his earliest memories, his father was overweight, his mom the soul food chef. As an adult, growing concern about his father’s health prompted Hurt to confront him about his eating habits, but to no avail. Eventually, his father made small changes to his diet and began to exercise more, but the changes came too late in his life. In 2004, doctors diagnosed him with terminal pancreatic cancer, a virulent disease that disproportionately affects black people. Statistically, black Americans are more likely to die of the disease than whites; figures for 2001 to 2005 from the National Cancer Institute show that blacks had a 32 percent higher death rate. One of the risk factors for developing pancreatic cancer is a high fat, meat-based diet. Hurt’s father died in 2007 at the young age of 63. This is sadly a common story in the lives of many African American families in the U.S. — losing loved ones too soon from a nutrition-related illness.

In Soul Food Junkies, Hurt sets out on a historical and culinary journey to learn more about the soul food tradition and its relevance to black cultural identity. Through candid interviews with soul food cooks, historians, and scholars, as well as with doctors, family members, and everyday people, the film puts this culinary tradition under the microscope to examine both its positive and negative consequences. Hurt also explores the socioeconomic conditions in predominantly black neighborhoods, where it can be difficult to find healthy options, and meets some pioneers in the emerging food justice movement who are challenging the food industry, encouraging communities to “go back to the land” by creating sustainable and eco-friendly gardens, advocating for healthier options in local supermarkets, supporting local farmers' markets, avoiding highly processed fast foods, and cooking healthier versions of traditional soul food.

The Filmmaker

Byron Hurt

Byron Hurt is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, published writer, anti-sexism activist, and lecturer. Hurt is also the host of the Emmy-nominated series, Reel Works with Byron Hurt. The Independent named him one of the "Top 10 Filmmakers to Watch" in 2011. His most popular documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was later broadcast on Independent Lens.


Film Credits

Produced, Directed, and Written by
Byron Hurt

Executive Producer
Stanley Nelson

Associate Producer
Lisa Durden

Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez

Associate Editor
Johnalynn Holland

Consulting Editor
Sam Pollard

Original Music by
Kathryn Bostic

Additional Music of dead prez

Queen Afua
Will Allen
Christopher Barnes
Miguel Brito
Norma Jean Darden
Michaela Angela Davis
Lolis Eric Elie
Dr. Rodney Ellis, MD
Roderick Ephram
Cassandra Gaines
Dick Gregory
Dr. Jessica B. Harris
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill
Frances Hurt
Jackie Hurt
Mary Hurt
Taundra Hurt
Tony Hurt
Steven Jackson
Portia Jones
Attorney Chokwe Lumumba
Donnie Northern
Vonda McPherson
Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore
Frank Mentesana
Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad
Jenga Mwendo
Dr. Frederick Douglass Opie
Ms. Peaches
Sonia Sanchez
Dr. Leni Sorenson
Bryant Terry
Marcia Weaver
Dr. Rani Whitfield, MD
Sherry Whitfield
Baye Wilson
Kolu Zigby

Kevin Chung
Arthur (AJ) Jafa
Alessandro Rafanelli
Bill Winters

Additional Cinematography
Michael Campbell
Joe Cordasco
Camille Holder-Brown
Johnalynn Holland
Rebecca McDonald
Sekou McGlothin
Nassar Salley
Malik Wright

Ryan Carol
Nikola Chapelle
Mike Correa
James Payne
Paul Reed
John Scott
J.T. Takagi
Sam Watson

Assistant Camera
Todd DosSantos
Rebecca McDonald
Sekou McGlothin
Paul Reed
Erica Scott
Zachary Vaughn
Jordan West

Production Still Photographers
Laylah Amatullah Barrayn
Lisa Durden
Shawn Escoffery
Johnalynn Holland
Rebecca McDonald

Ola Akinmowo
Monifa Akinwole-Bandele
Beatriz Beckford
Cheryl Browne
Tami Gold
Judith Helfand
Camile Holder-Brown
Drake Holiday
Emir Lewis
Beni Matias
Sonia Malfa
Dr. Karen Aletha Maybank
Imani Perry
Jalal Sabur
Mark Scott
April R. Silver
Akanke Washington

Motion Graphic Design
Aarmada Entertainment

Score Engineering and Mixing
Bryan Zee

Music Mix
Charlton "Chip" Williams

Production Accountant
Alan L. Noel, CPA

Production Manager
Callie S. Crowder, CPA

Online Facility
Prime Focus

Audio Post Production Facility
Dog Bark Sound

Narration Recording Studio
Engine Room Audio

Archival Research
Nicole London

Additional Archival Research
Ann Bennett
Kenya Crumel
Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez
Johnalynn Holland

Production Assistants
Brenda Anim
Eric Bloyed
Will Bourne
Camille Holder-Brown
William Colwell
Michael Fritz
Farrquan "Q" Graham
Zachary Hadden
Rachael Horning
Clinton Johnson
Rebecca McDonald
Brandon Neal
Tesfaye Negussie
Paulette Payne
Erica Scott
Noah Scott
Yvetta "Kai" Williams
Malik Wright
Daniel Wilson

Joe Cordasco
Kiara Francisco
Nomi Hernandez
Nassar Sally
Adam P. Segal

Marci Juett Erica Scott

Tape Duplications
RP Video Enterprises, Inc.

Special Thanks
Tomiko Anderson
Helen Ufner Vintage Clothing
Shiloh Baptist Church

Executive Producer for ITVS
Sally Jo Fifer

Executive Producer for NBPC
Jacquie Jones

Funding for this program was provided by
Ford Foundation
Aepoch Foundation
Carletta S. Hurt
Rev. Tony Lee
Randal Pinkett
Michael Dyson
Novel Entertainment Inc.
Ukali Mwendo
And others, a complete list is available from PBS

Soul Food Junkies is a co-production of God Bless the Child Productions, LLC
and the Independent Television Service (ITVS),
in association with the National Black Programming Consortium,
with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

This program was produced by God Bless the Child Productions, LLC
which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2012 God Bless the Child Productions, LLC. All rights reserved.

Many of us enjoy foods that are based on tradition and culture, but may not be the healthiest choices. Have you been faced with the decision to sacrifice family favorites in order to treat your body right?
Many of us enjoy foods that are based on tradition and culture, but may not be the healthiest choices. Have you been faced with the decision to sacrifice family favorites in order to treat your body right?