Wheeler’s educational background is in Psychology and African American Studies. His research interests focus on both the central role food plays in the African American community and in our society as a whole. In minority communities, a relative lack of recognition and support from the wider society has led to an increased focus on the support network of the extended family unit. Food, and the passing on of traditional recipes, is often a way of preserving both family and culture.
Historically, preservation of culture through food was vital in the face of extreme hardships from slavery onward. Gathering family and communities around the kitchen table was a way of coalescing strength and lending support, often pairing the sharing of literal nourishment with that of stories and advice.
Traditional foods were shaped by access, and by the desire of a community to establish their own identity. The central ingredients of soul food were items accessible during slavery. In the decades following slavery, there have been movements to reject these foods in an effort to reject the state of discrimination and oppression under which the recipes were created, as well as movements to reclaim time-honored meals as important cultural foundations.