As the nation’s annual food fest approaches, let’s take a moment to express gratitude for farmworkers, the hard-working field hands who grow and harvest the abundance we’re about to eat on Thanksgiving.
It’s so easy in the food-obsessed Bay Area and beyond to focus on whether our D.I.Y., made-from-scratch meals are perfect or if the raw ingredients of our culinary creations have a pristine pedigree.But enough food narcissism already: let’s talk about the plight of the people who make this holiday possible. Some food for thought:
Check out the videos from the recent conference TedxFruitvale: Harvesting Change hosted by the foundation wing of the sustainable-food focused Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMCO). The event, held at Mills College in Oakland, revealed in sharp relief and from first-hand accounts the back-breaking labor of those in the fields, many of whom are still exposed to life-threatening pesticides and labor in shocking conditions. But this day-long event was anything but a downer: The program also highlighted farmworker success stories and alternative ownership models to BigAg.
Read the full story by Civil Eats contributor Sarah Henry at Bay Area Bites.
Photo: Tomato pickers in Immokalee, Florida, by Scott Robertson
Given all the media attention, you may think that Alice Waters is the only person in Berkeley doing anything to fix school food–and that her Edible Schoolyard Project is the only organization tackling this topic across the country.
But that perception would be wrong. Founded in 1995, the Center for Ecoliteracy has also long championed school food reform and channeled funding in the millions to garden programs, cooking classes, and nutrition-based curriculum in Berkeley public schools. Read more
Sometimes a spoonful of sugar does, indeed, make the medicine go down. Though you won’t find that catchphrase in the just-released hardcover edition of Food Rules, Michael Pollan‘s best-selling little eater’s manual.
Food Rules does sport the whimsical and witty illustrations of well-known artist Maira Kalman, however. And the new book also boasts 19 new rules—many gleaned from eaters around the country that Pollan wished he had thought of and included the first time around.
Take two is again full of commonsense kitchen wisdom such as If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, you’re probably not hungry; and When you eat real food, you don’t need rules.
The takeaway message: food need not be complicated, and the act of eating is as much about pleasure and communion as it is about nutrition and health. In other words: lighten up a little and enjoy your dinner. Read more
Arnell Hinkle, the founding executive director of CANFIT (which stands for Communities, Adolescents, Nutrition, and Fitness) may be based in downtown Berkeley, but her work to improve the lives of low-income youth of color takes her across the country and around the globe. Read more
Pat Van Valkenburgh is the kind of person that The Bread Project hopes to help. A stay-at-home mom who home-schooled her two children until they attended Berkeley High School, Van Valkenburgh desperately needed a job when her construction worker husband became unemployed. Since she enjoyed cooking, she thought the nonprofit’s nine-week café training program, which focuses on basic kitchen, food service, and barista skills, was a good fit and would help her find a job in the restaurant industry.
Van Valkenburgh didn’t have to look far for work: she was snapped up by the organization to manage the café it runs out of the Berkeley Adult School, where the program for low-income job seekers, started by Susan Phillips and Lucie Buchbinder in 2000, has been housed since 2003. Read more
Aaron French, a self-described eco-chef, has headed up the kitchen at The Sunny Side Café on Solano Avenue in Albany, California since it opened in 2004.
For the past two years he’s served up breakfast standards (think pancakes and eggs) and simple lunch fare (burgers, sandwiches, salads) at a satellite café of the same name in Berkeley.
French bounces between the two popular spots several times a day and jokes that the breakfast-brunch shift is the Rodney Dangerfield of cooking (it don’t get no respect).
Still, he’s proudest of his low carbon emissions menu options and his weekend food specials, a short, seasonal list that emphasizes local farms and calculates food miles. Read more
Heads up, green thumbs struggling to offload excess edibles: Aid is out there. A growing movement, designed to help people eat well, save money, and get to know their neighbors, is planting seeds in communities around the country. Crop swaps–meet ups where people exchange their surplus backyard bounty–are thriving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Boston in city and suburban enclaves and online, too.
Of course, there’s nothing particularly new about this phenomenon; who hasn’t been the beneficiary of the guy next door’s abundant squash plot or the woman across the street’s surplus spinach bed? Informal, low-key fruit and veggie trades have gone on since humans began cultivating crops. But these days, with the economy and the environment on many people’s minds, bartering food in a systematic manner is making a comeback. (For more on this, see Shareable’s story on food swaps.) Read more
Three years ago, Marissa LaMagna started Bay Area Green Tours, a nonprofit, shoestring operation now headquartered in the David Brower Center in Berkeley, California (and largely staffed by eager, eco-conscious, unpaid interns) because she wanted to showcase the best sustainable farms and food, buildings and businesses, energy practices, and employment opportunities in Berkeley and beyond.
The green tour business with a biodiesel bus takes people from near and far to see for themselves and hear the stories behind successful sustainable enterprises in the area, whether it’s Gather restaurant in Berkeley, Knoll Farms in Brentwood, or Nicassio Valley Cheese Company ranch in Marin. In addition to public programs, the group has led private tours for Whole Foods, Kaiser Permanente, and Berkeley High’s Green Academy. Read more
People seem to have an insatiable appetite for food matters right now. Case in point: the public tickets for Edible Education 101 at UC Berkeley were snapped up in 12 minutes on Monday, according to a tweet from Alice Waters, who played a key role in bringing the curriculum to the university.
The 13-week course, co-taught by J-school professor and The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan, and Nikki Henderson, the executive director of People’s Grocery, a food justice organization in West Oakland, will examine the rise and future of the food movement. Student enrollment for the one-semester course also filled within minutes after it was listed online, as Berkeleyside reported earlier this month.
Why such interest? The class offers undergrads, grad students, and regular folk a chance to critique current food systems and dissect food politics with Pollan, Henderson, and Waters, as well as a slew of other big names in the food movement, including Marion Nestle and Eric Schlosser. The course kicks off with a lecture by Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini on August 30th. The class also coincides with the 40th anniversary celebration of Chez Panisse restaurant. Read more
Civil Eats contributor Sarah Henry reports at KQED’s Bay Area Bites on yesterday’s announcement by First Lady Michelle Obama on the new food financing initiative, The California FreshWorks Fund, designed to increase access to healthy, affordable food in underserved communities in California.
The local take away from the White House announcement: A full-service grocery store may finally come to the people of West Oakland. It looks like the People’s Community Market, a long-anticipated mid-size retailer in West Oakland, may be a step closer to raising the capital it needs to break ground.