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Overcoming barriers through food

May 22, 2019 • Erin Reitz • No Comments


Anum Imran ’21 learned about the economic and social struggles of immigrant families while growing up in Concord, North Carolina, with parents and grandparents who had come to the United States from Pakistan.

“My mother was very young, and my grandfather was a businessman,” said Imran, now a sophomore double majoring in political science and statistics and analytics. She is co-founder and director of business development for Traditional Kitchens, a refugee women-led cooperative cookery in Chapel Hill.

“I did not experience those hardships, but as I got older, I learned about all of the things my family and grandfather went through to keep his business running. Language barriers were just one of the biggest issues they faced,” she said.

The knowledge and compassion she felt for her own family’s struggles led to assisting other immigrant families. In high school, for example, she helped refugee women in Charlotte sell their hand-knit and embroidered caps to local university students.

Imran was thus primed for social entrepreneurship when she arrived at UNC-Chapel Hill in fall 2018 and ended up in a first-year seminar on “Creating Social Value,” taught by public policy adjunct professor of the practice Melissa Carrier.

The course, designed to “immerse students in the process of designing innovative solutions for social change,” helped Imran focus her ideas and apply for entry to CUBE, the Campus Y’s social innovation incubator. There she received coaching from seasoned entrepreneurs and connections to resources and networks.

Among those connections was Refugee Community Partnership, a nonprofit focused on providing a comprehensive support infrastructure for refugee families. Imran met three women through RCP — two from Myanmar, one from Syria. They were interested in food entrepreneurship and looking for an avenue to pursue it. Imran was looking for a way to help.

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