Food Revolution Community Group of the Week: East Bay

Food Revolution Community Group Of The Week: East Bay

Thu 19 May 2011

Story by Trace Williams

My husband and I have a charmed life – I have a dual professional life (a job in the corporate world and another as a working chef) and he is a high school football coach. We are the parents of five and our house is usually packed with kids hanging out and eating us out of house and home.

I grew up in a restaurant family in Northern England (it was kind like growing up in the circus) and enjoyed the best food – always fresh and healthy with the best ingredients. When I had a family of my own, I never imagined that I would feed them any other way. I was always amazed when kids would sit at our table and exclaim that their parents didn’t cook and that pizza or fast food multiple times a week was the norm. I always hear guests in my home tell my family they are lucky that their Mum is a chef, but I don’t think that great food is only reserved for those with a culinary professional in reach. It is time for a paradigm shift!

Imagine my delight when I saw Chef Jamie’s efforts to get that shift in motion! I immediately knew that I needed to help further evangelize the message and decided that setting up a group and becoming an activist was a great way to do that. Our group consists of people from all walks of life, including local chefs, farmers, students and parents.

One of the biggest problems in the least affluent areas of the East Bay is that there is a lack of quality, fresh vegetables available to the community. Many grocery stores have closed up shop, leaving the community to shop at convenience stores. We enlisted the help of Pilar Reber at Richmond based, Sunnyside Organic Seedlings. Sunnyside provides organic vegetable starts for sale at local nurseries and farmer’s markets – but the biggest part of what she and our dedicated volunteers have going on is a prolific garden that provides fresh produce for BARM, a local soup kitchen. We also volunteer at Verde School, in poverty stricken North Richmond, where one little lady manages the school garden and provides fresh produce to the community. People show up with bags and leave with them full of beautiful fresh veggies! The charge for this bounty? A smile and a hug!

The group’s goals are to have our community’s kids be inspired to volunteer, learn about where good food comes from, and facilitate them enjoying the experience of beautiful, non-processed food on their plates. We held a field trip to Sunnyside and Verde for a local high school where the kids learned about things like the science of aquaponic lettuce farming, and about not taking good nutrition for granted with a gorgeous lunch prepared at the farm. We have also visited this high school, funded and prepared a healthy breakfast for the entire school with a talk about making healthy choices – it was so awesome to see the kids so excited to enjoy a great meal!

Our other goals include an initiative to talk to every one of the 36 school districts in the East Bay about their “Child Nutrition Programs”. We discovered that a majority of our local districts outsource their lunch programs to corporations like Compass and Sodexo. One of them touts “Fresh and Healthy” on their menu’s – in examining the actual nutritional values posted, their idea of “Fresh and Healthy” includes mostly frozen items, there is very little that is fresh about their menu. We think if we can approach these corporations and ask them to do better, we may be able to impact many school districts’ programs at once and help them deliver better choices for their children. We have enlisted a former Child Nutrition Manager for one of largest school districts to facilitate getting us in front of these corporations.

Our numbers and interest in what we are doing are growing and while we have a long road ahead of us, the East Bay Food Revolution is determined to make an impact – our community’s well-being depends on it!

About the author: Trace Williams is a mother, chef and creator of the East Bay Food Revolution community group in San Ramon, California.


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