2021 John Egerton Prize Winner: Dara Cooper | Southern Foodways Alliance arrow left envelope headphones search facebook instagram twitter flickr menu rss play circle itunes calendar


Each year, the Southern Foodways Alliance celebrates men and women whose lifework enriches Southern food culture. Seven SFA awards and honors recognize these cultural standard bearers.

2021 John Egerton Prize Winner: Dara Cooper

Dara Cooper is the winner of the 2021 John Egerton Prize.

Dara Cooper wins the 2021 John Egerton Prize from the Southern Foodways Alliance

Working in Atlanta, Jackson, Mississippi, and beyond, Dara Cooper has long advocated for racial justice through equitable food systems. 

Cooper organizes nationally with the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA), an alliance of Black-led organizations working towards national Black food sovereignty. She also collaborates with the Health Environment Agriculture and Labor (HEAL) Food Alliance, comprised of groups working to transform an unjust food system. 

In partnership with the Center for Social Inclusion (now Race Forward), she interviewed Black farmers, co-ops, and food hubs throughout the South to highlight racial justice and food systems infrastructure work. Cooper has helped to build and grow markets for Black farmers, developing community-based food hubs and a nationally recognized model for healthy food distribution.

Cooper is also a leader in the Movement for Black Lives policy, working to connect the struggle against police and state violence with environmental, health, and nutritional violence against Black people. 

The John Egerton Prize, endowed by SFA member contributions, awards $5,000 each year. To share the story of the Egerton Prize winner, SFA also produces a film. The 2021 film, Getting Down to the Root, directed by Jasmine Williams, premieres digitally on October 7 via a partnership with the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee. (John Egerton, a founder of the SFA, was also a founder of the Southern Festival of Books.)

To mark the many ways that Egerton’s work engaged the South, that October 7 digital film premiere and award ceremony will include remarks by Alice Randall, author of the novel Black Bottom Saints; Jasmine Mans, poet and author of Black Girl, Call Home; and Cooper. SFA filmmaker Zaire Love will moderate. On October 15, SFA will also broadcast the film, the ceremony, and the remarks as part of its 24rd Fall Symposium.

John Egerton Prize winners live or work in the American South, exhibit exceptional creativity, apply the rubric of food and drink to their work, and show the potential to make a genuine difference in one or more fields.

 Winners are elected by a jury that includes:

—W. Ralph Eubanks, author and teacher, Washington, DC and Oxford, MS

—Deborah Fewell, chef and media personality, Chicago, IL

—Edward Lee, chef and nonprofit leader, Louisville, KY

—Alison Bethel McKenzie, journalist and media trainer, Washington, DC 

—John Simpkins, nonprofit leader, Durham, NC

—Judith Winfrey, farmer and entrepreneur, Atlanta, GA



The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


Alex Raij Txikito

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