“Now, I love to cook!....I can’t stop cooking”

This is the second in a series of posts profiling the residents who serve on the Feeding Potrero Catering Team. Over the past year and a half, this team of Potrero Hill Terraces and Annex community members, under supervision of Leah’s Pantry staff, has bonded over a love of good food and a desire to uplift their community. Cooking together in love and service of the community, has turned this team into a family. We wanted to share a little bit about each member. Here's Niesha! 

Niesha Brown has been an indispensible member of our Feeding Potrero catering team over the past 2 years. This 39 year old mother of an adult son is an ambitious, caring, community-minded woman. And lucky for us, she’s an unstoppable cook who started cooking at the age of 10. Her parents were busy working and Niesha had to make food for herself. She didn’t consider it “fun” then but as adult, she declares, “Now, I love to cook!....I can’t stop cooking.”

Niesha credits the older women in her life with providing her culinary training-- her mom, aunts, and her mother-in-law were a significant  source of some of her best tips and recipes. Her mom would send her to her aunt’s house where she watched her make her famous potato salad. Eventually Niesha became the expert potato salad maker at the age of 13.  

As a young adult, Niesha moved out of her mother’s home and began raising her own family. Her Nicaraguan mother-in-law was another great source of culinary skills.  Her mother-in-law’s way of making rice is still one of her favorite techniques. The secret is to simmer water or broth separately from the rice, then add the hot liquid to the rice pot. The grains stay separate, fluffy, and firm.

While acknowledging the culinary influence of others, Niesha also recognizes her own culinary style: “I like to do my thing.” She says she gets tired of eating the same things and seeks to evolve from the tastes and skills she learned as a child. Niesha continues to look for new culinary ideas to make her own. She credits her work with Leah’s Pantry for providing inspiration with vegetables and healthier seasonings. She says that the hands-on experience of preparing delicious dishes with fresh produce is responsible for some new habits. “By me working with Leah’s Pantry, it just opened my eyes to much more things that are out there. Things that I would never have tried before, like persimmon….” She has started cooking mostly with olive oil, roasting vegetables, frying her food less, and eating more fresh vegetables. Roasting is now one of her favorite techniques: “All I am doing is roasting, roasting vegetables…. It’s good,” she exclaims. She has come to appreciate the taste of fresh vegetables without the use of heavy salty seasonings. Niesha attests that cooking on the team has resulted in weaning herself off chips and soda and eating more fruits and vegetables. These changes have made her “feel much better on the inside.”

Being a professional cook and opening a restaurant was a dream Niesha shared with her belated husband. Even though he died before they could realize that dream, she still cooks to impress. “For the individual that is eating my food, you want them to be like ‘Damn, that’s good!’” She is very proud that the neighborhood is buzzing with conversation as a result of the delicious food that she and the Feeding Potrero team prepares. Cooking for the families at Potrero Hill with the catering team feels incredibly important to her. In addition to enjoying cooking and the praise it garners, providing people in her community with a pleasurable experience is an important part of giving back. Growing up around aunties and uncles gathering together with food, fun, and love left a lasting impression on Niesha and is a gift she wants to share.  

There is one person she finds the hardest to impress with her cooking: her mother. While her mother enjoys Niesha’s cooking, she often serves as her primary food critic. Still, Niesha regularly sends plates over to her mom--proof that she truly feeds as a means to express her love. And in that generous spirit, Niesha happily shares the secret of her family’s potato salad: finely chopped pimiento.


A Complete Kitchen

We are so excited to share this piece written by one of our favorite facilitators, Ellen Garcia. This story documents Ellen's experience facilitating a cooking class at an SRO in San Francisco. It provides an illustrative, and at times humorous, glimpse into our work, the colorful lives of residents, and the challenging living conditions within SROs. 

A Complete Kitchen
Ellen Garcia

The elevator in San Francisco’s No Name Hotel doesn’t go to the basement, though that’s where the kitchen is. It’s the only shared kitchen for over 150 permanent residents and boasts an extra-large flat screen TV, if not serviceable cooking equipment, but only the most able-bodied, determined residents can get to it. 

The first time I came to teach a cooking class here, I was six months pregnant and not at all prepared to carry my 30-pound cart of groceries and equipment down the stairs. I did anyway; one signs up for surprises like this as a public health worker. A resident case manager, young and fresh and clearly new to the job, assured me afterwards that the elevator was being repaired. But it’s been two years since then. In the mean time if you don’t want to carry your pots and groceries all the way down to the first floor, through reception, down a long stairwell, and through another hallway, well, you’re out of luck. Residents don’t bother complaining anymore.

Over 30,000 people, more than 5% of the total population of San Francisco, live in Single-Room Occupancy Hotels (SROs). This is more people than live in city public and subsidized Section 8 housing combined. SROs were an important source of low-income housing in many US cities until they were systematically removed in the latter 20th century under the guise of urban renewal. Today, San Francisco is one of the few American cities that still contains a significant number of SROs.

Not surprisingly, when I arrive to teach class on an overcast Thursday afternoon, there’s no one in the kitchen except a 20-something transvestite named H. She’s glued to the TV blaring “The Wendy Show” and, unlike most folks who happen upon me in an SRO kitchen, she’s utterly uninterested in what I’m doing there. With about 15 minutes to prep, I begin cleaning. The countertops are dusty. A fluorescent light flutters overhead. A roach scuttles past my foot as I wipe stuck-on remnants of meals long past from the sink; I bring all my own soap, rags, and equipment because the building won’t allow storage there for anything smaller than a microwave. If residents have any fresh food or cooking supplies, they must keep these in their small rooms. 

Soon, residents begin trickling in for my class. It’s the last in a series of six, typical of the “healthy cooking” workshops offered throughout California on behalf of the government-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps). The state pays for nutrition education programs by providing SNAP funds to smaller organizations such as the San Francisco Marin Food Bank or, in this case, a nonprofit called Leah’s Pantry. It’s a complicated, highly politicized bureaucratic mechanism that is invisible to participants; most have no idea how these classes come about, and I don’t emphasize it. Being perceived as a government representative — whether or not I really am— might not endear me to everyone in the community. 

Since today is the last class in the series, there’s a celebratory feeling in the air. This time I’m demonstrating a slightly more complicated recipe, individual pizzas with Portobello mushrooms as a base. I will use the oven for this, which I’ve never tried here, and am just crossing my fingers that it works well enough. As I check inside, I block residents’ view of it with my back in case something with four (or more) legs comes running out. Participants wouldn’t blame me if the oven had roaches, of course, but it would ruin their appetites all the same. I learned this lesson when teaching a class series at another SRO down the street; its lone kitchen was not really a kitchen at all but rather a dingy community room with sink and stovetop off to one side, glue mousetraps adorning every corner. I had accidentally placed my rice cooker on top of a trap and it got stuck to the side as I was setting up. My class participants were too polite to say anything, but few ate the pumpkin oatmeal I prepared that day. 

Most of San Francisco’s SROs are located in the Tenderloin, South of Market, Mid-Market, Chinatown, and Mission districts. Although they have housed much of the city’s low-income and immigrant population for generations, these centrally-located neighborhoods are rapidly gentrifying as a new tech boom causes real estate values to soar. According to report published recently by Stanford University’s Peninsula Press, while San Francisco’s overall eviction rate has risen by an alarming 60% in the past 5 years, eviction rates in these neighborhoods have gone up even faster— as much as 800% in the Tenderloin, for example. 

About eight participants arrive for my class on this day including S., a tall, swaggering white woman with a raspy southern drawl that reminds me of Janis Joplin. On the first day of the series, she reminded me that we had, indeed, met before— when I came to teach my previous series. She hadn’t continued with that class because she was still in a wheelchair and couldn’t get downstairs to the kitchen. I tried to hide my disbelief at her transformation since then; she looked like she’d lost 100 pounds and reverse-aged 20 years. And she was coherent. The woman I remembered could barely hold a steady gaze and said nothing I could understand. Today, she’s bubbly and excited. She can’t wait to learn to make mushroom pizzas because, having discovered that she’s allergic to gluten, she has had to stop enjoying one of the few filling meals she can afford.

Just as we get started, G. arrives. He was one of 14 graduates of my previous cooking series. He is a big man with a bad heart condition, prone to bouts of aggression. He often shows up right after my class has started, declaring that we must have changed the day of the class and he’s very sorry but he needs to use the stove right then, and proceeds to cook an elaborate rich meal as I prepare my salad or fruit smoothies or some other modest healthy recipe. Today he is frying two giant t-bone steaks, which he will eat, all by himself, in front of my participants as they wait for their healthy vegetarian pizzas. 

Other participants are clearly annoyed but, like everyone else in the building, they know to give G. plenty of space. In some ways I’m just happy someone is cooking in here. Most residents eat fast food from places in the neighborhood, or St. Anthony’s free meals down the street, or cheap microwaveable meals in their rooms. And it’s not just because the elevator keeps them from the dingy kitchen. It’s also the chance of an unwanted encounter with a neighbor that wants a bite of their food or makes them feel unsafe somehow. Or worse, having to eat alone in a space meant for socializing. 

Average rent for a single SRO unit jumped from approximately $200/month in 1990 to $500 in 2000. Today, it’s not uncommon for a single room to rent for $1200 or more.

All of a sudden, S. notices a puddle of water growing in her corner of the room. It starts at the painted cinderblock wall and quickly advances towards the beat-up folding table where she’s seated. Just as she steps out of the way, a janitor arrives with a mop and bucket— as if on cue— and quietly tries to get it under control. Soon another maintenance worker arrives and informs me, via a Tagalog-speaking participant, that he’s shutting off the water. 

Participants seem unsurprised and unconcerned about the leak, but look at me anxiously to see whether I will cancel the class. (I like to say I can give a class anywhere there’s running water, and that’s mostly true.) But fortunately I’ve done all my prep already, so we can continue. The maintenance guy flashes 10 fingers at me which I’m told means the water should be back on in about 10 minutes.

I try to get my class back on track as the janitor finishes mopping up and S. finds another seat. Today, in addition to our recipe and end-of-class celebration, we will discuss microwave safety. This is not part of my usual lesson plan, which focuses each week on a simple nutrition concept and related easy, inexpensive recipe. But participants requested we discuss it because the building is plagued with microwave fires. 

An SRO unit is typically a small room, perhaps 100 square feet or less, with shared bathroom facilities down the hall. Rooms are intended to house individuals and occasionally couples, but it’s not uncommon to find three or four working men or a small family sharing one in some buildings. Cooking facilities range from in-room sinks and electric burners in some newer buildings to a shared kitchen on each floor to a single kitchen to no kitchen whatsoever. Older buildings prohibit residents from keeping hot plates or other appliances in their rooms, or from cooking at all, due to fire hazard from old wiring and inattention.

“People don’t know you can’t put metal in there,” J. tells me as I pass out a simple flyer I’ve created about microwave safety. She’s a former Marin housewife who often tells stories about the grand house she and her husband used to have. She never says how she got here.

“At least once a month, the fire alarm goes off and we’re all out in the street,” says another participant, B. “Sometimes in the middle of the night, and we have to stand out there in our slippers with all the junkies and street zombies.” 

“If it keeps on like this, management could outlaw microwaves in our rooms. Then what do we do?” 

I suggest participants might post the flyers on their floors or even ask the social worker to distribute them to all new residents. 

“It won’t make a difference,” says S., shrugging. “A lot of people here can’t read.

The No Name Hotel is just a few blocks from Twitter, Uber, Square, and Dolby corporate headquarters, as well as numerous new high-rise condo developments. Currently, it costs about $3,000 a month to rent a market-rate 1-bedroom in this area and about $800,000 to buy one.

Once the oven is preheated, I shift gears towards my Portobello pizza demonstration. As often happens when I introduce a new ingredient or cooking method, participants are politely doubtful and have lots of questions. S. asks where I bought the mushrooms, because the ones she’d seen at the Farmer’s Market were really expensive. (Sprouts market in Daly City, I explain, but only after simple math revealed that the ones they sell wrapped in plastic cost half as much per pound as the loose ones! This leads to a brief review of unit pricing.)

L., a genteel, retired woman from the Philippines who graduated from my previous series but returned for this one because she enjoys the company, explains that she is afraid to eat mushrooms. As always, she passes out my paper copies of the recipes.

“How do you know which ones are poisonous?” she asks worriedly, looking at my baking tray like the food on it might be preparing to kill her.

“The ones in the stores are not poisonous,” I try to reassure her. She is not convinced.

Then we talk about the pizza sauce, which I found at a Grocery Outlet for $1.29. A quick review of the ingredients and nutrition facts reveals that it’s got plenty of sugar in it. I try to put this in context for everyone, explaining that although I generally avoid packaged foods with added sugar, in this case I made an exception because I’m using so little per serving— only about ½ teaspoon worth of added sugar for a 12¢ portion. 

Soon my mushrooms are done pre-cooking and I remove them from the oven, beads of sweat dripping down each one. They’ve shrunk considerably. 

“How many of those would you eat at once?” S. asks. 

“I would eat one or two with a salad,” I tell her. “They are a lot more filling than you think.” She explains that in her gluten-eating days, she could devour an entire pizza at once. Though she rarely got the chance.

San Francisco’s SRO population includes recently emigrated Latino and Asian immigrants, disabled vets, active IV drug users, the mentally ill, and retired folks with no other “affordable” housing options— often all mixed together in any given building. 

I layer sauce, sliced bell pepper, shredded cheese, and dried oregano onto the mushrooms, but participants are still doubtful. I offer to make one without cheese for M., a retired African-American woman who lived on the streets for 20 years and says she is allergic to milk products. She declines my offer however. She doesn’t want one at all. Neither does her friend F., who spent years on the street herself as a prostitute and has all variety of permanent bumps and scars to tell the tale for her. She comes to class in a flowing, flowered dress and heels every week.

As the pizzas bake in the oven, the class turns to a lively discussion about whether canned items from the Food Bank are safe to eat. The Food Bank runs a weekly pantry in the building and many items it distributes are past date. Their volunteers distribute literature explaining how to interpret the code dates on packages and that expired foods can be OK, but. residents like M. are still afraid of them. 

M. goes on at great length about a bout of food poisoning she experienced years ago, when still on the streets, from canned salmon. I do my best to assure everyone that food from the Food Bank is safe. But I don’t blame them for their vigilance. Without reliable access to fresh food and means to cook it, many SRO residents have horror stories to share about hesitantly eating food that turned out to be spoiled, that wasn’t what it was supposed to be, that broke their teeth, that was just a waste of the last few dollars they had. Then there are the stories I don’t hear— about what happens at the end of the month if money runs out and there’s no food at all. 

There is no large supermarket in the neighborhood where the No-Name Hotel is located. Able-bodied residents looking for fresh groceries must walk or take the bus to a FoodsCo in the Mission district. Older residents, and those with disabilities, instead rely on small corner stores selling little more than junk food and liquor. One exception, however, is the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market in Civic Center Plaza, steps from the gleaming gold dome of City Hall. Here residents can buy fresh produce using EBT cards as well as WIC and a variety of other vouchers. Especially enterprising folks know to arrive at closing time, when vendors are more likely to offer unsold items at deeply discounted rates or for free.

M. is still talking about the salmon incident when I take my pizzas out of the oven. She has started to repeat herself, speaking faster and faster as if anticipating someone might try to cut her off, but no one does. Participants in this group have actually come to treat one another quite generously. It’s a nice turn of events since most had never spoken to one another when the series began 6 weeks ago. 

I’m not always so lucky. In the first class I taught for SRO residents, just down the block, I had one elderly male participant whose tendency to talk over others— due to a brain disorder— became so frustrating to another participant, herself going through drug withdrawal, that the two got into a frightening altercation in class. What I remember most was that the other participants seemed completely unphased by the fight, instead focused totally on their do-gooder teacher to see how I would handle it. Fortunately the building manager intervened before things got physical and, after asking the group to reflect for a moment on how we could create a safe, respectful space together, I resumed making my black bean pineapple salsa without incident. 

F. and J., now sensing that the class conversation has veered off track, affectionately steer M. towards her other favorite topic: things she likes to cook. Unlike most other participants in this class, M. is an avid cook and makes complex meals every day in her room to share with friends in the building. Her specialty is Southern food and she describes in detail how she plans tonight to dredge tilapia in corn flour and lightly fry it in her small electric skillet. I’m thinking I’ll try the same thing when I get home to my run-down, but comparatively luxurious, apartment kitchen. Her mouth-watering description has the whole group transfixed as I distribute my little mushroom pizzas to 5 willing participants. L. hands out napkins.

Today, many of San Francisco’s better-kept SROs are managed by large nonprofit corporations. These corporations are dedicated to preserving low-income housing in what is arguably the most expensive city in America; they buy and rehabilitate old buildings, or build them, and offer onsite programs such as social workers, addiction or vocational counseling, health care, and life skills classes. Some even run vegetable gardens where residents can volunteer in exchange for free produce. Privately-owned buildings are more likely to be dilapidated and infested with roaches, bedbugs, or mice. Though some private landlords take good care of their buildings, others take advantage of low-income residents with few housing options, allowing their buildings to fall into dangerous disrepair.

The group gets quiet as folks begin sampling their pizzas. Finally I hear someone say “Mmmm, this is not what I expected at all. It actually tastes like pizza!” Soon others share their impressions, mostly positive. 

We’ve only got about five minutes left, so I begin distributing “graduation gifts” to the seven people completing the series. These are called CookIt Kits and are supplied by the nonprofit that organizes my classes. Each kit contains an individual-sized crockpot, real kitchen knife, cutting board, good-quality can opener, measuring spoons and cups, and a variety of other small kitchen items. The whole kit fits into a tote bag. It’s meant to supply everything an SRO resident needs to cook in his or her room, and I get to give one to anyone who comes to four or more of six classes in my series. For some, these will be the first kitchen supplies they’ve owned in years or ever. For others, though no one admits this, they’re currency; stories abound of residents selling the contents. Regardless of what becomes of them, however, people seem genuinely touched by the practicality and thoughtfulness of the kits and often act as if I bought each item personally. 

Today is no exception. One participant, P., looks teary as she pulls item after item from her tote bag, exclaiming “There’s more?!” after each one and arranging it with the rest of the pile on the table in front of her. 

“It’s like the Christmas stocking when I was little,” she says emotionally.

An older Chinese man, who has literally never spoken in class but attended faithfully each week— perhaps he doesn’t understand English— smiles broadly to himself as he hugs his bag to his chest and hobbles out the door.

The political district of San Francisco that includes the No Name Hotel, and the majority of the city’s SROs, has the lowest median income of all 11 districts (less than $27,000 a year to the city’s $84,000). It has the highest percentage of residents living in poverty, the highest percentage of residents living alone, the highest percentage of homeless residents, the highest percentage of seniors, and the highest number of residents receiving free meals from city-funded programs and free dining rooms (aka “soup kitchens”). But a disproportionate number of residents receive no government benefits at all. They may have criminal history that disqualified them in the past or be undocumented immigrants; others are simply disenfranchised from the enrollment process or earn a little too much to be eligible. Not surprisingly, over 45% of this district’s residents are at risk for food insecurity. 

Among all the excitement, M. decides to try the pizza after all. “This kind of cheese doesn’t make me sick,” she says as she takes a wide bite. Then L., the woman who thought my mushrooms might poison her, changes her mind and takes one. 

“I’m going to make this,” M. says as she finishes her pizza. “F—, let’s come down here and make a batch next week after we go shopping.” F. nods in agreement.

As often happens on the last day of class, participants linger long after the official ending time to chat with one another and share any final thoughts with me personally. If things have gone well, someone asks at this point when I’m coming back or gives me a hug. 

Today the group presents me with a small white pastry box tied up with multicolored ribbon like a gift. It’s two perfect rocky road double chip cookies from an upscale bakery nearby street that caters to tech and government employees.

“We thought you should get something on the last day, too,” M. says. “They’re not like the healthy stuff you make for us, but sometimes you say ‘Screw it’ and celebrate.”

According to the San Francisco Food Security Task Force, 15% of residential units in this political district lack a “complete kitchen,” defined as a sink with running water, stove or range top, and refrigerator. The definition makes no stipulation about the space itself, for example, that it includes a place for people to sit and eat together.

Having cleaned up with once-again running water, I haul my grocery cart back down the basement hallway, up the long set of stairs, past reception, and out into the afternoon. Even on foggy San Francisco days I’m blinded by daylight when exiting the No Name Hotel. My eyes have just started to adjust when I notice, in the shadow of an abandoned building across the street, a participant from one of my previous workshops nearby— C.— wandering out into traffic with a look of bewilderment on his face. A stroke several years ago diminished his mental function and he had no family left to care for him, which is why he lives now in an SRO. He ends most sentences halfway through with “Sorry, I can’t think.” 

C. comes to a stop in the middle of the busy street and oncoming cars start honking. If I didn’t know better, I’m thinking to myself, if I was driving one of those cars, I might assume he was on drugs from the look of him. But before I can call out to him, he sees me on the sidewalk. He studies my face for a second, looks down at my grocery cart, back at my face, and then smiles. He starts walking towards me.

To learn more about community cooking and nutrition programs in San Francisco and beyond, contact Leahspantrysf.org or one of many other agencies doing similar work, including:
Cooking Matters/No Kid Hungry:
Urban Sprouts: http://www.urbansprouts.org/
University of California Cooperative Extension: http://cesantaclara.ucanr.edu/
Or consult the USDA’s resources for Nutrition Educators: http://www.fns.usda.gov/get-involved/provide-nutrition-education  

Ellen Garcia 2016; originally published in Comestible Issue 3.

Leah's Pantry is seeking BOD candidates

Leah's Pantry is currently seeking candidates to serve on the Board of Directors.  Job description here:

Leah’s Pantry is looking for motivated, enthusiastic board members to guide and support our organization, which inspires healthy eating for all through a wide variety of nutrition education and cooking programs.  Our main products are Food Smarts (in-person classes and trainings) and Eatfresh.org, a portfolio of online nutrition education products.  We also do recipe development and trauma-informed community meals and programs.   The organization works throughout California but the main office and most board members are in the Bay Area.  The full Board meets six times per year in San Francisco and has excellent communication with the executive director.  Each board member participates in at least one of three committees: finance, governance or development, and participates in committee work throughout the year via email, phone and in-person meetings. The primary roles of board members are to serve as ambassadors for the organization and help build capacity through fundraising. They make personal contributions of time, money, connections and expertise.  In particular, we are seeking board members with legal expertise, fundraising experience or previous experience serving on a nonprofit board of directors, but anyone with interest is encouraged to reach out.   Please contact Board President Kate Bedford at info@leahspantrysf.org for more information.


Looking Back and Planning Ahead

Adrienne with API youth.jpg

Happy New Year! We hope that 2017 has started off well for you. Transitioning to a new year always inspires some reflection and looking ahead at Leah’s Pantry. As such, we want to share some of our 2016 highlights, along with some upcoming work that we’re particularly excited about.  

2016- Highlights:

  • Our user base for Eatfresh.org, our online cooking resource, grew from last year by 168%. The site had over 100,000 viewers!

  • We received an American Public Health Association award for our Eatfresh.org Mini-Course, our self-guided online nutrition classes. Over 40 programs across California have adopted this course so far this year.  

  • We continued to build our large network of “Food Smart” organizations through our train-the-trainer projects. Last year, we trained over 100 individuals from partner agencies across California. We value the opportunity to expand our impact by providing our partners with the nutrition resources they need to reach their clients.

2017- What’s to Come:

  • The publication of two new cookbooks! We’ve been working closely with groups of Samoan, Tongan, Hawaiian, Marshallese, and San Diego-based Native American populations to create delicious, easy and affordable recipes.

  • Imperfect Produce is donating over 12,000 pounds of produce to our programs in San Francisco. This means that all of our workshop participants will receive fresh produce for specific Eatfresh.org recipes every class.

  • Increased involvement in our San Diego County food recovery efforts. As a member of the San Diego Food Systems Alliance, we are advocating for a technology-based, county-wide food recovery solution that prioritizes the distribution of healthier prepared foods.

  • The continued expansion of Eatfresh.org as the nation’s premier online nutrition education solution. It’s taking over the world, one kitchen at a time.

  • The development and implementation of trauma-informed nutrition programs that take a deeper look at the relationships between trauma, food, and healing.

Questions about our work and/or interested in getting involved? Visit us online or email danielle@leahspantrysf.org.

May 2017 be a happy, healthy, and delicious year for you!


Award-Winning EatFresh.org Mini Course

Adrienne and Jessica traveled to Denver last month to present two sessions on the EatFresh.org Mini Course at the 2016 APHA Annual Meeting and Expo where we shared how the online course was developed, the benefits and main features of the course, and the results from our pilot user testing last year. The conference was inspiring and gave us new perspectives to our work. 12,000 public health professionals in attendance!

We are happy to announce that we won an award from the Public Health Education and Health Promotion Section for the EatFresh.org Mini Course in the Multi-Media Materials Category. We so are honored to receive this award! Thank you again to our partners who helped us pilot the Mini Course and give feedback. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Have you created your free account yet? Go to eatfresh.org/minicourse to get started.

You can also download our Mini Course Getting Started Guide from the EatFresh.org Toolkit to help begin promotion and outreach to your program participants. Contact Jessica Silldorff with any technical or outreach-related questions.

Thank you, Ralph

As some of you may have heard, Ralph Cooper, also known as our Slow Cooker Chef, passed away on September 27, 2016. Ralph was an inspiration to our organization and came to represent the work we do in SROs in the Tenderloin, SOMA, and Mission neighborhoods.

Ralph was known as the Slow Cooker Chef because he was able to make delicious and nutritious meals in a single crockpot. Many of our slow cooker recipes have been inspired by Ralph. He began working with Leah's Pantry to provide cooking demos to residents living in SROs, educating participants that cooking healthy is possible in small spaces. Ralph proactively scheduled classes, promoted the importance of his work, and even urged social workers to include his classes in their programming because he wholeheartedly believed in the importance of taking an active role with our health. Similar to Leah’s Pantry, Ralph considered cooking a big part of that.

Over the past two years working as a peer educator, Ralph conducted 81 crock-pot demonstrations reaching nearly 400 individuals! This important work could not have been done without the dedication and positive attitude that came so naturally to Ralph. Further, Ralph reached the SRO population in an authentic and effective way; he used his personal experience to truly inspire healthy changes in hundreds of lives.

A few weeks ago, Monica and I were honored to attend a memorial service at Ralph's residence in the Coronado Hotel. Many of his neighbors, case managers, and friends from the neighborhood attended. We heard many stories about Baby Girl, Ralph’s beloved Chihuahua, but we mostly heard about Ralph's character and his desire to make the community a better place. Ralph did this through his crockpot demonstrations with Leah's Pantry but also in his day-to-day actions. Ralph gave extra food to the homeless, swept the sidewalk in front of his building, and acted a peacekeeper between neighbors on the streets.

As one of his neighbors so eloquently said, "Ralph gave a damn about the neighborhood! He didn't complain about the conditions of the community or who was causing trouble outside. He did something about it by cleaning up, cooking food, and creating a space where we all wanted to live."

We miss you Ralph,
Alex and the Leah’s Pantry Staff

Reflections From Emma Draisin, Leah’s Pantry High School Summer Intern 2016


Though brief, my time working with Leah’s pantry has been an eye-opening and valuable experience. Through assisting in nutrition and cooking workshops for children, I learned to see the privilege of having easy access to healthy food and nutrition education in my own life. With two family practitioners as parents, I have been blessed by having healthy eating habits ingrained in my behavior from a young age. While I was previously hazily aware of my luck, assisting at workshops with children who had no help at home in eating balanced meals was heartbreaking. I saw firsthand how even a single workshop can impact these young kids.

I also assisted Leah’s Pantry with their portion of the Homebridge training, an intensive program for home-care and supportive service providers that assist the elderly and disabled. Leah’s Pantry taught trainees food safety and nutrition basics, along with how to shop and cook healthy meals on a budget. The home-care trainees left with a new confidence in their care-taking abilities and the new understanding that food could be simple, tasty, and good for you.

When I was not at workshops, I was in the office uploading new recipes to eatfresh.org and updating farmers’ market information. Though this work was not as hands-on as the workshops, I took joy in remembering the excitement and amazement of the adults at workshops when shown eatfresh.org. The website is truly unique and a wonderful resource for SRO residents or low-income Californians. I can see myself using it in the future; when I go to college I’m sure that limited kitchen recipes will be a life-saver for dorm living.

During my time at Leah’s Pantry, I was inspired and impressed with the skill, passion, and dedication of the amazing staff. The SF staff is truly a blessing - each person brings their own energy and diverse professional backgrounds into teaching, and their ability to impact and inspire all workshop participants is outstanding.

As a high school Junior, Leah’s Pantry has shown me the immense need for nutrition education, and as I look toward my own future, I know my time here will shape the path I chose. I hope to return to Leah’s Pantry in summers to come, because I believe in the mission and I have seen the impact of this organization in my community.


Reflections from James Wang, a Summer Intern from San Francisco State

From Leah's Pantry Staff: James, we are sad to see you go! Thank you for your dedication, hard work, and positive energy over the past few months. Please stay in touch!

The City of San Francisco is a beautiful and broken city, filled with many different kinds of people that make up what it is today. One thing I have learned to appreciate through this internship is the recognition of the good things in contrast to the not-so-good things. Everywhere I go there seems to be similar problems in regards to the population’s health and the lack of resources and education. Leah’s Pantry recognizes this important need, and provides communities with the tools necessary to bring awareness to these health issues and formulate simple yet powerful ways to eat fresh and eat smart.

I have been blessed to work with all of the staff members of Leah’s Pantry and see the kind of work that they do. Sites such as the Boys and Girls Clubs that are scattered throughout San Francisco have centers for kids to spend their time being looked-after by caretakers and volunteers while school is out for the summer. Leah’s Pantry workshops teach these kids healthy recipes, as well as provide information about the importance of eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables to build stronger bodies and live healthier lives. The beautiful thing about this is that Leah’s Pantry doesn’t just provide ingredients to eat for a day, but tools and information to eat for a lifetime; information that is meant to be shared with everybody so the entire family can benefit from the child’s learning experience.

In the office I have helped develop curricula used in the workshops, like simple food passports for kids to write and draw descriptions of what they eat. I have noticed how much these kids enjoy putting thoughts onto paper as they learn about the different smells, tastes, and even sounds that are created when consuming different kinds of foods. It brings me a lot of joy to know that the work I put in the office is beneficial to enriching the lives of these communities and hopefully inspiring another individual to make a change in their health.

What does this internship mean to me? How does this apply to my own daily life? Watching all of the staff members practicing what they teach has caused me to be more mindful of my own health. Some of my favorite recipes in the Food Smarts recipe book, like the black bean and corn salad have become staples in my life. It feels great to know that even I can benefit and improve my health from the things I learn.

Leah’s Pantry is a hidden jewel of San Francisco, and the service they provide for the City is immensely valuable. I encourage those to give organizations like these more support, as they help inspire the communities of San Francisco and provide them with tools to eating healthier.

"Sexy Comes with Healthy"


This is the first in a series of posts profiling the residents who serve on the Feeding Potrero Catering Team. Over the past year, this team of Potrero Hill Terraces and Annex community members, under supervision of Leah’s Pantry staff, has bonded over a love of good food and a desire to uplift their community. Cooking together in love and service of the community, has turned this team into a family. We wanted to share a little bit about each member. (And soon we’ll post the voice recording of this interview with Mona; it’s worth a listen!) 

Mona Robinson is an ambitious, vibrant, and passionate long-time San Franciscan. In addition to being a food lover, she is a fount of jokes, joy, and life philosophy. Her parents came to San Francisco from Texas when they were a very young couple and raised Mona and her siblings here. She remembers riding her bike throughout San Francisco, stopping at Aquatic Park to swim, and fishing in the bay.  And though she was a bit young during the hippie era, she experienced plenty of the counterculture. Mona has many stories that highlight the dramatic changes in American life: “[my momma’s] birth certificate says ‘Colored,’ mine says ‘Negro,’ my children’s say ‘Black,’ and my grandchildren’s say ‘African American’…. isn’t that a trip?” 

Mona’s main personal and culinary influence is her tough and sassy mother whose nickname is ‘Peaches.’ She credits her mother with encouraging her to develop real skills for living, especially the ability to cook something delicious from nothing. The story goes: her mother who had her at age 15, could only prepare boxed macaroni and cheese, barbecued Spam, and canned green beans. Mona’s father arranged for an elderly lady from the church to come teach her mother how to cook. “Boy, then my momma perfected Thanksgiving and Christmas…that is when she started putting some love in her food,” Mona declares. She is most impressed by her mother’s “stand at attention rice”—rice where each grain is separate and fluffy. But Mona’s taste ventures far from her mother’s menu to include: sashimi, cuttlefish, artichokes, and even chocolate-covered grasshoppers. It was her father, who joined the Navy at age 14 and traveled the world, who cultivated her taste for exotic foods. “He would take us out to eat at different restaurants but we couldn’t order chicken. We had to try new things.”

It was the food lover in Mona that led her to choose Potrero Hill as a home for herself and her little boys in 1983. On a visit to check out the neighborhood, she saw all the old people and “Big Mamas,” community matriarchs who cooked and had gardens in their front yards. The good, old-fashioned food smells are what sealed the deal. Another significant decision Mona made at a young age was to take care of her body and eat healthy food so that she could thrive. “I am not going to lie,” Mona says, “I like looking at sexy people…. and sexy comes with healthy.” She is proud of how she can add flavor to food while still making it healthy.

Even though she has retired from work in construction, landscaping, and security, Mona has plenty of energy for her new work with Healthy Generations and on the Feeding Potrero team. Feeding and being there for the children and their families feels like a life calling to Mona. “We got love in us around here and we all like each other and we like to put our best out… We are making magic here... This is where I am supposed to be.”

Searching for the Rainbow at Sherman Elementary Garden Club

When the last bell rang on Friday releasing students for the weekend in south San Diego, kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders sprinted out from their classrooms and into the school garden. Early arrivers excitedly argued over who got to water the plants with the giant garden hose first. More students skipped in with big grins, eager to see what had grown since they were last there. 

We joined the Sherman Elementary Garden Club last week to teach students about eating the rainbow of fruits and vegetables. This Food Smarts activity usually requires some imagination as we ask participants to think of fruits and vegetables that fall into each color category, but at Sherman Elementary, we adapted the lesson and sent the kids on a scavenger hunt. Their goal was to find (and taste!) as many colors of the rainbow as they could right there in the garden. The group of about 30 students was split up into three groups, which rotated every 20 minutes for one hour. The other groups made butterfly crafts and helped Pablo prune the garden. I was impressed that every student remained fully engaged for the entire hour.

One student, a self-described "Veggie Whisperer", was willing to put just about anything in his mouth. He LOVED vegetables and wanted everyone to know it! Others were enthusiastic about trying things like basil leaves right off the plant, but spit it out when the bitter flavor hit their tongue. This didn't deter them from trying something else though! When a couple beets were pulled up from the ground, the kids beamed with pride and asked to have their picture taken with it.

When we gathered back together to share what was found on the scavenger hunt, some students held out handfuls of vegetables while others held up colorful drawings of what they observed, or imagined could grow, in the garden. Many of the students knew that fruits and vegetables gave us vitamins to keep us healthy, and were excited to learn that each color gave us specific types of vitamins and minerals.

At the end of the hour, each student walked out with some fresh veggies, an EatFresh.org recipe card for Apple Celery Slaw to share with their family, and an expanded understanding of how the food they're growing keeps them healthy and strong.

Reflections from Sarah Carrillo, Leah's Pantry Intern and San Francisco State Health Education (almost) graduate!

group shot.JPG

Note from Staff: Sarah, thank you so much for your time and contribution to Leah's Pantry. You will be missed. We are excited to see where you end up for this next chapter of your life. Best of luck! (Sarah is pictured in the middle with the black turtleneck.)

Interning at Leah’s Pantry for the past twelve weeks has been a fantastic and valuable experience. I am truly glad that I was able to be a part of this outstanding organization and that I was able to make a positive impact in my own community. During my time here, I worked to provide support and nutrition health education to several underserved communities. Helping to facilitate nutrition and cooking workshops was a great opportunity that allowed me to share my knowledge and expertise with others. It was such a gratifying experience to witness the growth of these participants throughout the workshop series and to see firsthand the amount of change that can occur in such a short period of time. Also, I did not expect to receive such a large amount of respect and appreciation. I found this to be the case again and again with all of the diverse populations we worked with. In addition to facilitating these workshops and others, I conducted outreach among Calfresh recipients, attended several San Francisco Food Security Task Force Meetings, and helped to promote and spread awareness about the multitude of resources found on Eatfresh.org.

The most surprising part of this internship was to see how well Leah’s Pantry integrated the culmination of everything I learned in the health education program at SFSU. This was most apparent in their workshops which incorporated many aspects of liberation education. Staff members at workshops work alongside their community, constantly processing input and impact to reflect on the changing needs of the population being served. Overall, It was extremely evident that Leah’s Pantry helps to make a difference and therefore is an essential component of the community.

I deeply appreciate everyone who helped to make this an unforgettable experience. This internship has unquestionably made me feel more grounded in my ability to help others and in my understanding of how a nutrition and cooking nonprofit functions. I hope to utilize everything I have learned at Leah’s Pantry so that I can continue to make a difference in the community.

San Francisco General Hospital Food as Medicine Food Challenge

By Georgia Sleeth
Community Health Program Coordinator
Community Partnerships Co-Chair, SFGH Therapeutic Food Pantry

In December and January, SFGH providers and residents were posed a challenge: cook with a very limited budget once a week for three weeks. The goal was to engage providers around the issue of food insecurity, which affects approximately 56% of SFGH patients compared to 14% of households nationally, and see if this would affect how providers interacted with their patients around food and nutrition.

The recipe was really easy to make, took fewer than 5 minutes to put together. It was absolutely delicious and those who ate it for dinner couldn’t stop eating it.
— Lydia Leung, Family Health Center Medical Director
Sweet potato fries from EatFresh.org recipe cooked by Family Health Center Medical Director, Lydia Leung.

Sweet potato fries from EatFresh.org recipe cooked by Family Health Center Medical Director, Lydia Leung.

In the SFGH Food as Medicine Food Challenge, hosted by the SFGH Community Wellness Program (CWP) Healthy Food Initiatives, five recipes were sent out each week and residents were asked to cook one recipe a week for the three weeks of the challenge. The recipes were drawn from EatFresh.org, Leanne Brown’s cookbook Good and Cheap, and Leah’s Pantry’s The Tenderloin Cooking School which were all created specifically for people on a SNAP (formerly food stamps) budget. These recipe resources are widely available, which make this challenge easily replicable by any clinic and/or hospital hoping to increase provider awareness about food insecurity.

Providers and residents across six departments participated in the challenge. In reflecting on the experience, Kei Yoshimatsu a second year Psychiatry resident noted, “I don’t often ask about food insecurity. I assume my patients are getting enough food [via food pantries and free group meals]… perhaps that is a false belief… If I knew they were food insecure I would implement more intensive troubleshooting [for their food insecurity].”

From the SFGH Instagram account, @sfghfoodchallenge

From the SFGH Instagram account, @sfghfoodchallenge

In response to the feedback from this challenge, the CWP will be co-hosting a cooking day with Cooking Matters for patients and physicians to further cook with poverty in mind and learn together via interactive nutrition education. The CWP hopes to draw from these challenges to develop a nutrition curriculum in collaboration with Leah’s Pantry for residents at SFGH.

EatFresh.org Mini Course Webinar Highlights

At the end of January, Erin and I hosted a webinar about the the EatFresh.org Mini Course, which is a free online eLearning course that covers SNAP-Ed messages. (And great news – it's listed in the Integrated Curriculum List released by the California State Implementing Agencies!)

If you didn't get a chance to join us, you can watch the full webinar on our YouTube channel now. For those of you who don't have 40 minutes to spare, I'll give you the Cliffs Notes version:

The Mini Course leverages the content of EatFresh.org and guides the user through a series of topics that takes about 35 minutes to complete. It was developed for low computer literacy users in English and Spanish using a narrative instructional strategy with characters that we believed to be realistic and approachable for viewers. We see these characters as "Champion Moms and Dads" of the CalFresh-eligible population who are modeling healthy behaviors and attitudes while also voicing common barriers and difficulties.

Mini Course 1 includes a pre-course and post-course questionnaire, which enables us to build an evidence base for knowledge, attitude, and intentions to make behavior changes. In our pilot that included 130 low-income individuals, we saw statistically significant knowledge changes (p=0.05) in just one hour! These indicators were knowing how to calculate teaspoons of sugar from the number of grams shown on a nutrition label, correctly choosing the healthiest food based on the nutrition label among three options, and knowing the amount of sodium in carrots. We also saw statistically significant attitude and intent changes (p=0.05) related to eating whole wheat tortillas instead of refined white tortillas, and choosing reduced or fat-free milk instead of whole milk.

The adults in our pilot really enjoyed the content of the Mini Course and felt that they learned a lot. Leah’s Pantry runs a community cooking program in public housing in San Francisco, and we invited all the community cooks to take the class as part of their professional development. The next week one of them arrived saying he had started reading labels at the grocery store for the first time and had stopped drinking soda!

The Mini Course can benefit your program in many ways, including:

  • Enhancing your interventions by increasing the number of ways your clients can access nutrition education and reinforcing lessons taught in-person.
  • Supporting PSE and Capacity Building & Collaboration work, like offering the EatFresh.org Mini Course as an option for child care providers to fulfill a nutrition education requirement.
  • Increasing reach for your direct education events – we have been working with Evan Talmage at CDPH to ensure we can enter this data into the ATF as a direct intervention.
  • Reducing participant burden by adapting to your client's schedule and limitations, like lack of transportation. The Mini Course can be taken at anytime of day and at any speed.
  • Providing message consistency and high curriculum fidelity by communicating the exact same information to each participant.
  • Providing training for your nutrition educators as a refresher on SNAP-Ed messages. If you would like to give access to your educators to all three courses without the pre/post questionnaires, email me at jessica@leahspantrysf.org.
  • Offering an incentive. At a recent partner training, we offered aprons to everyone who brought in their certificate of completion.

Need ideas for integrating the EatFresh.org Mini Course into your program? Try this:

  • During classes or workshops, refer your clients to the EatFresh.org homepage and tell them to click on the Kenny Kale button in the center of the screen that reads "Take the free EatFresh.org Mini Course".
  • If you have a computer lab, hold a nutrition class there and guide participants through the course. We recommend having headphones handy for everyone!
  • Ask your staff and partners to take the Mini Course to boost their nutrition knowledge. This can be used as a precursor to an upcoming training so participants can better absorb information at the training.
  • Distribute our brand new recipe cards or hang our posters that advertise the Mini Course. You can place an order print materials now »

Mini Course 1, 2, and 3 are available now at lms.eatfresh.org, or by clicking on the Kenny Kale button on the EatFresh.org homepage.



Reflections from Kwadwo Kumi-Amankwah, Leah's Pantry Fall Intern 2015

I started my internship with Leah's Pantry as part of my health education program at San Francisco State University. I chose Leah's Pantry because I was interested in doing something nutrition focused. I have been interested in nutrition for quite some time. Yet I had never spent any real time studying it in school. So Leah's Pantry became a great option for me. My work at Leah's Pantry involved various office work. I also assisted in nutrition workshop preparation, and went to many events. I really learned quite a bit through my short time at Leah's Pantry.

Leah's Pantry workshop settings allowed me to see education from a new perspective. I traditionally have only seen workshops or classes related to college students. At Leah's Pantry I got to see and be part of workshops with different populations. The workshop populations I saw included children, seniors, re-entry, and SRO residents. This was very important to me as a health education student. Working with such groups was new to me. I also got to see how much healthy/positive environments impact the effectiveness of education.  It really highlighted the importance of multi-faceted community building for me.

Over time I noticed how complete and well organized Leah's Pantry's workshops are. Participants leave with new skills,  recipes, workbooks, and a very comprehensive cooking kit. It's a perfect application of the many health education theories I had learned about in school. Leah's Pantry staff are also very skilled educators. They're all relatable, caring, yet passionate, knowledgeable, and strong communicators. They lead workshops in a very informative yet friendly, personal, and enjoyable manner.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a number of events as well. One of my favorites was the San Francisco Food Security Task Force SRO food survey meeting. I've typically taken my own food access for granted. But after that meeting I could really see the different layers of advantages I have, and the different layers of work needed to improve access for others. I would say that my understanding of the term access has really evolved. Now I can see access in terms deeper than just finance, but also in skills, tools, mobility and more.  I had a similar experience assisting in some online nutrition curriculum testing for Leah’s Pantry. There are many subtle computer skills that I take for granted as a college student. Little things such as making emails can be huge barriers of access for some people.     

I really feel like the work Leah's Pantry does makes a difference for people. People really appreciate these workshops. I see this as part of the greater framework of uplifting people as a whole. My time with Leah's Pantry has really helped me see that relationship between food and community. The staff have also been very welcoming, friendly and helpful to me through this whole experience. I would highly recommend Leah's Pantry for any other aspiring nutrition, cooking, health education students.

Note from Leah's Pantry Staff: Kwadwo, we will miss you! Your aptitude, positivity, and hunger for knowledge (and good food!) have been a significant asset for us over the past few months. Good luck with your last semester at school!

New on EatFresh.org: Middle Eastern and African Recipes


We are pleased to announce that the recipes from our new cookbook, Around the World at the Farmers' Market: Recipes from San Diego's African and Middle Eastern Community Cooks are now available on EatFresh.org in English, Spanish, and Chinese!

This project was made possible through a collaboration with the International Rescue Committee San Diego, United Women for East African Support Team, and UC San Diego – Center for Community Health. We held cooking and tasting parties with Iraqi, North African, and East African community members to develop 32 recipes inspired by their culture's cuisine.

Throughout the process, we ensured that all recipes could be made on a limited budget and with produce available in the San Diego area. Additionally, many of the recipes include step-by-step photo directions to make them more accessible to a variety of readers. Printed copies of the cookbook in English will be available in early 2016.

EatFresh.org Promotional Videos

Over the summer, we worked with Plus M Productions to produce four EatFresh.org promotional videos that demonstrate ways to integrate the website into daily life. We are thrilled with how they turned out!

These videos can be played in office lobbies, waiting rooms, computer labs, healthcare centers, or any public space that makes sense for your organization. They are currently available on our YouTube channel, and you can embed the videos on your website or share them on social media. If you'd like the original video files, please get in touch with Jessica Silldorff (jessica@leahspantrysf.org).

What is EatFresh.org? (02:10)

Overview video of the EatFresh.org website, EatFresh.org Mini Course, and EatFresh.org Text Message Class. This video combines all three storylines seen in the other videos below.


Cooking with EatFresh.org (01:57)

A mother and son find EatFresh.org recipes on their laptop for the boy's birthday party. They shop for ingredients with their EBT card and then cook easy, delicious recipes together, finishing just in time for guests to arrive.


Meal Planning with EatFresh.org (01:52)

Two moms meet up on a playground, one of which doesn't know what to make for dinner. Her friend shows her EatFresh.org on her smartphone and they look for recipes together. She is relieved to find recipes that are both easy, inexpensive, and healthy for her family.


Family Traditions with EatFresh.org (02:16)

A grandmother is teaching her granddaughter how to cook a family recipe. Inspired by this, the granddaughter brings up EatFresh.org on her tablet to find a similar, but new, stir-fry dish. She shops at a local market, cooks the dish on her own, and then invites her grandmother to taste it with her. They both love the new dish and bond over cooking together. 

EatFresh.org Mini Course Testing

The EatFresh.org Mini Course in up and running! Access this SNAP-Ed online nutrition class by clicking on the button that reads "Take the free EatFresh.org Mini Course" from the EatFresh.org homepage.

In total there are three courses which each contain five classes on a variety of nutrition and health topics. Currently only the first course is online. We will be adding the other two courses, and the Mini Course in Spanish, in Spring 2016.

We have tested the course with community partners in San Francisco and San Diego counties. As of December 1st, 81 people have completed the course. All participants have said they learned something from the course and enjoyed taking it, especially how much sugar is in their drinks. We are working to simplify the account creation and course registration process to make it as accessible as possible for people with varying levels of computer literacy. Unfortunately online educational platforms can be quite clunky, but we are dedicated to decreasing barriers to participation and learning a lot in the process!

Please let us know if you are interested in testing the EatFresh.org Mini Course at your site. Contact Erin Franey (erin@leahspantrysf.org) for more details. We will be hosting a webinar on Friday, January 29th from 10:00 - 10:45am about the EatFresh.org Mini Course and how to incorporate it into your programing. Sign up for the webinar now »


San Diego Food System Alliance: Food Waste Solution Summit

As the fiscal sponsor for the San Diego Food System Alliance, we are thrilled with the success of the Alliance's Food Waste Solution Summit held on October 6th. The event sold out and had close to 130 individuals in attendance. The Alliance convened a wide range of stakeholders to help connect the dots and brainstorm solutions around addressing food waste in San Diego county.

The event kicked off with an introduction on why the San Diego Food System Alliance Food Recovery Working Group organized this summit by Richard Winkler, Co-Director of Victory Gardens San Diego. Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the emcee of the summit and Child Health Medical Officer for the County of San Diego, spoke about the medical impacts of food insecurity, particularly as it relates to children. Then, Michael Wonsidler, Program Coordinator for Solid Waste Planning & Recycling Section of County of San Diego, provided further context on food waste issues. Michael also shared the EPA's Food Recovery Pyramid and Ramona Unified School District's case study.

There was also a brief introduction of the San Diego Food System Alliance Food Recovery Working Group which organized the summit. The group has been collecting data around the scale of food waste in San Diego county, identifying stakeholders to bring to the table, researching best practices, and catalyzing collaborative projects.  Burgeoning programs/ projects highlighted:

  1. Food Cycle aims to connect waste generators (or wasted food donors) to recipients (food pantries, composting sites, etc). The program will be managed by Solana Center for Environmental Innovation.

  2. Food recovery program at Sweetwater School District (with a pilot starting in Southwest High School)

The attendees split up into two tracks: Track 1 was a Peer Collaboration session for food recovery and recycling groups and Track 2 was a panel discussion on City of San Diego food waste practice case studies (moderated by Ana Carvalho from City of San Diego). Attendees from both tracks identified strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities/ needs to expand best practices. They also identified their unique organizational strengths  and continued networking/ knowledge sharing during the "Resource Matching Fair".

The closing keynote speaker was Dr. Emily Young, VP of Community Impact of the San Diego Foundation. She spoke about the connectivity between food waste, our food system, and climate change. Thank you to San Diego Foundation for supporting efforts to impact the food system in San Diego!

EatFresh.org Goes on the Road to Mendocino and Yolo Counties

By Erin Franey

This month marks EatFresh.org's second anniversary, and my first full year working as part of the EatFresh.org team at Leah's Pantry.  The resources available on EatFresh.org have grown over the past year, and I have learned a lot in the process.  I feel more eager than ever before to share all the tools we are building with partners around the state, and sense their excitement to use EatFresh.org as a platform to enhance their work. 

Heather Criss of Mendocino HHSA and Rebecca Tryon of Yolo HHSA both got in touch with me this summer about making a trip to train their county partners.  I spent the week of October 12th between the two counties meeting with food banks, family resource centers, CalFresh staff, and other agencies.  Showing not only the functionality of EatFresh.org, but also our new promotional videos, the EatFresh.org Mini Course, and highlighting how other counties have piloted EatFresh.org programing reminded me of how far we have come in the past year.  After both CNAP meetings the room was buzzing with ideas about how to get posters and recipe cards to other organizations, who could connect with library staff about the Mini Course, and what materials would be most useful in CalFresh outreach.  I was particularly interested to learn about challenges both counties face to addressing food insecurity amongst residents, and saw first hand how food assistance programs differ in rural counties compared to urban ones like San Francisco.

There was a lot of interest in EatFresh.org in both Mendocino and Yolo, and plans to share resources widely.  Thank you so much Heather, Rebecca, and everyone I met with for coordinating this visit.  I hope to make similar trips to other counties in the months ahead!

Students Use EatFresh to Create Healthy Meal Plans

by Erin Franey

The EatFresh.org Meal Plan Challenge is a collaborative project between the Department of Children, Youth, and their Families (DCYF) and EatFresh.org. Drawing from Leah's Pantry Food Smarts curriculum we created a three-session series that combines activities about building a healthy meal with EatFresh.org. exploration. The students each designed their own meal plans, picked their favorite, and as a group we prepared it. The meal plans will soon be available on EatFresh.org in our recently launched meal plan feature

Jamestown SF and Glide Children's have both participated in the Meal Plan Challenge. The middle school students at Jamestown SF chose "Juicey Appleitos" as the title for their plan, which included Turkey Apple Sausage Breakfast Sandwiches, Autumn Salad, and Cinnamon Baked Goldens

Next week students from Chinatown YMCA will also participate in the Meal Plan Challenge.