Healthy foods guide alumna’s career
Self-described serial entrepreneur opens pop-up market in underserved, historically Black neighborhood
By Lily Raff McCaulou
After spending most of her life overweight, Chrisetta Mosley had lost 170 pounds, was exercising regularly and feeling great. Although she already had a bachelor’s degree, she enrolled at Clark College to become a personal trainer.
Then she took the course, Health 100: Food and Your Health, with Veronica Brock, professor of health at Clark, and the trajectory of her life was changed forever.
“The light bulb went on for me,” Mosley said recently. She had already changed her eating habits to lose weight but taking Brock’s course in 2011 helped her understand just how deeply her health was influenced by what she ate.
Mosley went on to write a cookbook that was used as curriculum at Clark. She taught cooking classes and launched a catering business. Last summer, she founded a pop-up market, Roots Marketplace, in Portland, Ore., that sold fresh produce in an underserved, historically Black neighborhood. Mosley, who is Black, hopes to open a year-round version of the market.
“The thing is, we don’t have a Black grocery store. They have Asian markets, they have Hispanic markets but there’s no Black market. We need a Black market here in Portland,” she said. “We need a place where we can feel like it’s ours, where we can get the foods that we want to eat, we can get the spices we need.”
Mosley is familiar with the trope about women swooning in a fancy shoe store but she prefers the colorful produce section of a nice grocery store, instead.
“Everything is so pretty and so fresh and so vibrant,” she said. “And then I think of how God made that stuff. You can plant one seed and then it will keep growing. It’s amazing! You can cut off the bottom of the lettuce stem and plant it and it will regrow. That’s amazing!”
For Mosley, the deep purple hue of eggplant is evidence of the miracle of life. That beautiful color makes her want to reach out and grab it, take it home and cook it into a delicious dish that honors its natural beauty.
It was in Brock’s course at Clark that Mosley got serious about cooking. She experimented with whole grains and fresh vegetables. She started taking photographs of the dishes she created and sharing them on Facebook. Friends and fans told Mosley she should open a restaurant. It’s a comment she still hears a lot but continues to ignore.
“The restaurant thing never resonated with me,” she said. “I don’t want to cook for you, I want you to cook for yourself.”
Instead, Mosley offered cooking classes at Chuck’s Produce on Mill Plain Boulevard in Vancouver. She published a cookbook, “Shop, Cook, Eat: Outside of the Box,” which was sold at Clark’s campus bookstore and used in Clark curricula.
Mosley gives credit to Brock, who not only inspired her with that Health 100 course but became a friend and mentor. Mosley, who was in her late 30s when she took Brock’s course, said she began emailing the professor and spending time in her office hours.
“She’s instrumental in my whole story,” Mosley said. “I don’t think anything that I’ve done to date would have happened without her. She believed in me the whole way.”
Brock said Mosley’s cookbook helped fill a gap in the health course, which is less about the science of food and more about making healthy choices in daily life.
“There wasn’t really a textbook that aligned well with that,” Brock said. “The books were all geared more toward health science majors, while we were talking about more practical things, like how to prepare food. Chrisetta has a passion for cooking and a real knack for creating her own recipes.”
Brock added that Mosley is an ideal guest speaker for her health classes.
“She’s extremely charismatic,” Brock said. “I think she has this gift to make people in her presence feel welcome.”
Mosley considers herself a serial entrepreneur. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted her successful catering business, she was already looking for a new challenge. Eddie Hill and Charles Smith, of the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, approached her in May 2021 about funding her marketplace idea for the summer, so she had little time to organize. However, she found 10 vendors, all of whom were Black, to sell fresh produce, flowers, wellness products, art, ceramics and music.
Mosley hopes to replicate the market’s joyful, colorful vibes in her year-round store, which will also be called Roots Marketplace. She is seeking shop space on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, a busy road through a historically Black neighborhood that has been upended by gentrification in recent years. She envisions a peaceful wellness display, a hot bar with traditional Black foods and seasonal offerings and, of course, a big, beautiful produce section.
Mosley said everyone was welcome at the summer market, just as everyone will be welcome at her future store. The goal simply was—and is—to support Black people.
“Let’s just concentrate on us for once,” she said.