A few years ago, James McGee believed he was living on borrowed time. He was only in his mid-20s, but doctors told him he probably wouldn’t make it another year.
Back then, the Desoto, Texas father-of-three was 100 pounds heavier and on 22 different medications for liver and kidney issues caused by heavy drinking during his years of military service. He knew he had to make changes if he wanted to stick around for his family. The former high school gang member already turned his life around once for his kids, after all.
Fast forward a few years, and James had done it. He’d adopted a vegan diet and dropped those extra 100 pounds. Now the 27-year-old doesn’t need his medication anymore. And he’s found his true calling as a restaurant owner, chef, and local inspiration.
Things really began changing for James and his wife, Morgan, when their four-year-old daughter, Captain, was diagnosed eczema, psoriasis, and a number of food allergies. That’s when the family decided to rid their kitchen of everything and start over. Then James opened Peace Love & Eatz, a smoothie and juice restaurant inside the Grow DeSoto Market Place.
Everything served inside Peace Love & Eatz is plant-based, from the smoothies to the mushroom burgers, grain bowls, and jackfruit tacos. The restaurant is also very allergy-friendly and can substitute practically anything.
But James wants to do more than just serve delicious, vegan food. He’s on a mission to make healthier options more available throughout the African American community.
“In the black community there’s a lot of diabetes. So a lot of people are starting to look at it, like, now I’ve got to do something.” he said, adding, “Here I’ve got a bridge to do.”
James is also working with DeSoto ISD’s alternative education program — which he was placed in as a kid — to put children on a better path. He’s hoping to start a program through which he can teach a class at local schools or kids can come in and get job experience at his or other establishments in the area. “I also want a fully sustainable plant-based restaurant in the area with a farmers market and a farm, and we can have students come work the garden to get community service hours,” he said.
“I want to show them that someone cares,” James added. “Because when they’re 27, they’re still going to be in DeSoto. And if they’re in DeSoto, they’re robbing people or breaking into cars, and it doesn’t do anything good for the community. So we want to mold them. Show them that they’ll be alright.”
Way to go, James! Not only is this man promoting healthier lifestyles, but healing within his own community as well. His children couldn’t have a better role model to look up to.
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