All posts tagged: food

Open Heart, Open Table in Tri-Valley

Food connects us, especially at this time of year. In Contra Costa County, food links hundreds of organizations and businesses bringing free nourishment to those who need it most.   Through word of mouth, I’ve come to know a number of groups helping to feed the community. I first reported on Loaves and Fishes of Contra Costa who referred me to White Pony Express with its hundreds of volunteers crisscrossing the county delivering fresh quality food seven days a week.  White Pony Express next referred me to their fresh fruit supplier, The Urban Farmers. The Urban Farmers spoke highly of Open Heart Kitchen that serves their fruit with free hot meals every weekday and packs it in their weekend bagged lunches for kids to eat when in school. I met with Linda McKeever, executive director of Open Heart Kitchen at Vineyard Christian Fellowship to learn more about the organization. We sat in the dining room in front of a window where clients were picking up Thanksgiving parcels, including donated turkeys for their holiday meals. The Kitchen rotates …

urban farmers san ramon harvest

The Urban Farmers Broaden Harvest

Some good grows from crisis. The idea for The Urban Farmers sprang up in the wake of the 2008 economic crash when Siamack Sioshansi’s son and his college roommate returned home to find their jobs as YMCA counselors eliminated. They decided to design a social justice project. To learn about their mission and how it’s evolved, I joined Siamack for a harvesting in San Ramon where he guides Boys Team Charity Lamorinda League in shaking down some trees. He tells the story: Social justice and environmental justice are one and the same. If someone says, I want to feed this group, but I’m going to import food, if they are destroying the environment, the first victims of that action are the poor. So environmental stewardship was a big part of the project. We asked, why don’t we plant a garden in people’s backyards, give them a basket of food, and donate the rest to people that need it? I was worried that nobody would let us in. The boys wrote a business plan, and what …

mobile clothing boutique free clothing

Build the Model, then Give it Away

To be in awe. To stand in amazement. In the case of White Pony Express, a food rescue organization in Contra Costa County, the generosity of (donor) vendors and volunteers inspires awe. We pick up our conversation (begun here) with Erica Brooks and Vincent d’Assis, with the group’s core value of delivering with love. The Free General Store Erica: Presentation of our items, whether they’re food or clothing, is really important. That’s a big part of our Free General Store, too. We could just have people come in here and pick out clothes, like in any thrift store. The important thing is how we present things. When people come to a mobile boutique to get clothes or toys, we would never want to give something that we wouldn’t give one of our family members. This is something our founder was huge on. And the food is the same way. We have volunteer personal shoppers that help people pick out and try on, they’re stylists! We take the clothes where people are. We rent these 14 …

food rescue food security food waste Contra Costa County

Creating Paths of Abundance

Rotting lettuce finally made the news. Media coverage of food waste generated several headlines this summer, with European advocates making progress on laws forbidding stores from destroying food that has past its sell by date. (We featured this video from the PBS NewsHour on our Friday Flicks). According to a Natural Resources Defense Council report, close to forty percent of America’s food goes to waste. Students, designers and policymakers puzzle through the means to make the most of our shrinking resources through circular models.  While some food businesses move toward a circular economy, most are far from it. Food rescue bridges the gap between a closed-loop food business design (our businesses are not there, yet) and ongoing waste. In Contra Costa County, White Pony Express, an all volunteer food rescue organization, closes the loop one delivery at a time. Seven days a week. I met with Erica Brooks and Vincent d’Assis to learn more about the inspiration, values and structure behind the organization. Since its inception in September 2013, White Pony Express has delivered more than …

burgers Grazzy restaurant

Artful Pairing

Q is a man of many interests: acting, writing, motorcycling, cooking, entrepreneurship.  After leaving his home in Iran more than 35 years ago to get a degree in the US (BS in agriculture, MA in Agricultural Engineering), Q has made the Bay Area his home. How would you describe yourself? I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve always had my own business. I’ve done so many things. Worked as a general contractor, opened a garage on 98th street in East Oakland. Back then the situation was pretty bad. My business partner and another owner of a gas station got shot. That got me to move out of that area and open my first café in Berkeley. It was a place to hang out. Everything was happening at the café; painting classes, cooking classes, history class, lot’s of partying. We did “open café” nights where people would bring their own drink and food to share and talk politics, art, history, etc. Back then there was no Facebook or Twitter, people loved to hang out and meet new members of …

student food cooperative coop coFED

Nourishing Community

I met with Farzana Serang, the executive director of CoFED, at their offices in Oakland’s Impact HUB.  Our conversation covered cooperative business models, CoFED’s national reach and ditch digging. FS:I never saw myself as a “coop” person. I grew up in a house with all my aunts and uncles, and we lived cooperatively. We all pitched in, the house was co-owned. Later when I was working, I felt really removed. I was talking about “Change” that had to happen at a high level (policy) and was disconnected from what was happening on the ground level. So, I took time off and traveled to Argentina and was there during this huge coop movement. I worked in Cordoba in the first women’s collective construction company that was going to build the first women-owned textile business, and they were also going to have housing there. I spent three months with them, drinking lots of mate and they asked what are you, this Indian woman, doing helping with coops in Argentina? I had never been a part of building …