Qwantese Dourese Winters: Linking Maternal Health and Food

By Hannah Wente | Photography by Hillary Schave, Shot on location at Madison Youth Arts Center (MYArts)

Qwantese Dourese Winters is living all of her dreams as a community agriculturist, food doula, writer, artist and co-host of a PBS TV show.

But the path wasn’t always clear. Seven years ago, she struggled with finding her purpose and attempted suicide.

“I … didn’t think [life] was worth living,” she says. “With the grace of God and support from people like my mother I was able to find my purpose in life, and home in on that full force.”

When she was struggling, her mom, Doris, cooked for her. Winters remembers her mom making collard greens to help nurse her back to health. She had never viewed food as medicine before.

Two years later, when she was training to become a doula (a person who provides emotional and physical support before, during and after pregnancy), she thought back to how food helped during her own health journey. She wanted to figure out a way to use food to nurture expecting and new mothers.

In 2017, she became a certified doula and has an active birthing practice through Oasis Maternal Care. Now, armed with an additional postpartum doula certification, she wants to grow her postpartum and food doula practice in the coming year.

Postpartum care with a food doula involves providing nourishing foods, nurturing touch and emphasizing rest to create a smooth postpartum environment that reduces the risk of postpartum mood disorders.

“Our culture is focused on ‘snapping back,’ and getting back to work as soon as possible,” she explains. “This means many of our mothers are not getting the support they need as their bodies acclimate to a new normal.”

She also provides food education and culturally relevant, engaging recipes for new parents via her YouTube channel “The Food Doula.”

This year, Winters is focused on expanding “The Food Doula” by offering in-person cooking classes at churches and libraries. She’s also starting a psychology and pre-dietetics program this fall at Mount Mary College.

To feed her creative side, she’s planning an art exhibition with fellow artist Alina Oby in fall 2024 that highlights the ingenuity of people of color and low-income communities.

For Winters, it’s fitting the majority of her work centers around mothers. It all comes back to her own mother, Doris.

“There were so many things that [my mom] sacrificed for me and my siblings — and she’s why I keep going.”

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