Reflect and GROW…

I am feeling an odd mixture of exuberance and nostalgia. There are so many exciting things happening right now. After four years of walking a tight rope with Taste and Texture, holding steadfast to the idea that this work is important and necessary, it is finally all coming together. I am over the moon with excitement.

I remember back in November of 2008, when Barack won the election. We were four generations of people screaming in the streets of Brooklyn. I still fail to adequately describe how and what I felt that night. But I do remember very clearly how I felt the next morning; sitting at the dining room table, coffee in hand and fixed to my computer screen as I listened again to his acceptance speech.  The opening lines still echo in my ear, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

I felt encouraged. For the first time in my life I was consciously identifying as an American. I was patriotic and motivated. Who knew?

Not long after that, I called my first ‘food for thought” meeting. Back then I was focused on creating a workforce development program that would address the whole person. I assembled some of the best thinkers I had ever had the pleasure of working with. I papered the walls with newsprint, asked them five questions and left the room.  Two hours later we would be fully immersed in conversation, but the topic had somehow switched from, “what do we need to create a culinary arts employment training program for low-income/under-educated/socially charged  folks that will actually allow them to earn a livable wage?” to “the reasons why this kind of program was too costly to get funded.”

It was a hard reality check, but the beauty about being surrounded by great thinkers is that when presented with a problem, they problem solve. Our solution was, ‘what do we do first, so that we can eventually build the program that we want.”

I still have those notes. They have been my reality check and inspiration for the last four years. Thank you, my LifeSkills/SafeSpace family. I love you so! And I miss you!!

And to my west coast family – thank you! It’s really happening!

I am ecstatic to report that I have a new project: GROW Oakland – Gaining Resources and Opportunities to Work for East Bay Youth (www.growoakland.org). It’s a partnership between Beyond Emancipation (B:E) and Taste and Texture in which we have created a multiphase initiative designed to engage, educate and train youth in personal health and wellness and prepare them for meaningful work in the culinary field.  The business model is a seed to plate social enterprise that will provide opportunities for current and former foster and probation youth to develop nutrition based health and wellness strategies and build skills and job experience in culinary arts, customer service, marketing and business planning and management.

The program is built out into four phases:

Phase I:  Healthy Living Workshops with Youth in Community Housing – We launched this first phase in March and have had 3 workshops with youth in 3 different transitional residences.  During the workshops we’ve made 4 complete meals: oven fried chicken, raw kale salad w/ strawberries and spiced pumpkin seeds; low-fat lasagna (with fresh marinara sauce), spinach salad w/ a seared tomatillo and cilantro vinaigrette;  rosemary, lime and garlic roasted chicken, roasted cauliflower  and oatmeal cookies; and pulled chicken tacos, pico de gallo and guacamole.  Check out some of the photos: (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.631397273541743.1073741825.135900183091457&type=3)

 

Phase III:  Culinary Training and Internship Program – This phase kicks off in July and classes will start in September.  It has been funded for the next three years by the Oakland Fund for Children and Youth. YAY!!!

 

Phase IV:  Youth Driven Planning for a Food Truck Social Enterprise to Launch in 2014 – We received seed funding from the Jonas fund to develop a business plan. So we are fast at work on that … Fun stuff!

I told you it was exciting.  But there is still one more phase!  And the coolest part is that you can actually help me with this one.  Phase II:  Home Based Community Gardens – I want to work with the youth in B:E’s programs to develop home-based community garden(s), to grow the food that they prepare and eat in housing.

As you might recall from Blog#12: The Irony of Justice, food deserts are a real challenge and no matter what skills I can help these young folks cultivate, if they don’t actually have access to whole and live food their skills are moot.  This pisses me off and so I want to create a sustainable food source with these kids.  But I need your help.

We are currently fundraising for Phase II (we have $500 to date and we need an additional $1500).  To those of you who have already donated – THANK YOU!!!

Ideally, we want to have this garden in the ground and growing by July 4th weekend. So, here’s the deal, we need to build garden beds and buy top soil, small gardening tools and starter plants. We can get three vegetable plants for $5.  Three cubic feet of soil cost $10.  Enough compost to fertilize a planting bed cost $20.  The wood and supplies to build a gardening bed cost $40.

So these are small donations ya’ll.  And if each of you can just kick in $10 bucks, we can have this done in a day. How cool would that be!!

When I think about this project, I feel all warm and a bit nervous. Which brings me back to something else Barack said in that speech. In talking about the campaign journey that led to a historic victory, a defining moment in our time, our president elect reminded us that “This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.”

This is exactly how I feel about GROW. We have been given a chance to make change. Right now we have an opportunity to make sustainable change in the lives of young people, many who have spent the majority of their lives feeling like no one cares about them. And my friends, I know you care. You show it by the work you do every single day. And right now, I need you to join me in showing this particular cluster of young people that we care. We care about their health and their well-being, and we care about the food they eat.  So, can I count on you?  Will you help?

You just follow the link below, select “GROWOakland’ under program designation, make a contribution. $10 will go a long way …. https://npo1.networkforgood.org/Donate/Donate.aspx?npoSubscriptionId=1006197&code=GrowOakland

As always, thank you for your continued support! And I’ll keep you posted!!!

Eat well. Be Well.

Love, Peace and Progress!

ME

3 Responses to “Reflect and GROW…”


  • Sarah!! Are you on the West Coast full time now (duh)? I have been out there for work twice in the past year and may be going back before this year is over!! Please email, FB or call me with your new information. I miss you but I’m so proud of what you are doing and so glad that it seems to be working well. You have my support! God bless and let’s get together, soon!
    -Iris

  • ps: please remove my last name from the previous post. Thanks. Hahahah

  • Hi Ms. Taste and Texture, it’s a pleasure reading about your new endeavours. I am so proud of you. I remember the young lady growing up in the Bronx in search of how to help others. And today you are that person giving back to the community and helping others. I am so proud of you. Much love.

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