Monday, July 18, 2011

Adventures in Social Entrepreneurship, week three: monetizing the venture

As I mentioned last week, this past Tuesday we were able to experiment with a few elements of the Get Cooking! model, which was really enlightening. We experimented with cooking first, curriculum second (not so intriguing) and with selling extra meals to community members (potentially very exciting).

We kicked off the session with some homemade hummus and home-toasted pita chips, prepared by Christy and Brenda. No one in the class had ever heard of hummus and most of them were not excited to try it. Gilda B. said she was scared of the way it looked and its texture but she ended up liking it and was glad to discover a new snack that might keep her full and satisfied longer than highly-processed snacks. Victoria H. brought her two daughters this week, Destiny (age 11) and Eunique (age 10) who especially loved the hummus and pita chips.

This week’s curriculum focused on the benefits of whole grains and legumes. We learned why whole grains keep you full longer than refined grains, and spent some time talking about the nutritional value of lentils. This coordinated with our recipe of the week: Lentil Chili. Lentils were also a new food for most of our participants and everyone was eager to sample the chili before taking it home with them. We’ve learned that for unfamiliar foods, it’s really important for participants to sample them. Otherwise there’s a chance they just leave the prepared meal in their freezer and never reheat it because they’re not convinced it will taste good. We’re incorporating this insight into next week by having Christy bring a pre-made sample of the recipe we’ll be cooking: Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers.

(Photo: Jumoke, Gilda H, and a plate of homemade hummus and pita chips)

With the two girls present this week, Christy talked to all of us about our responsibility as role models. Of course the girls’ mother, Victoria H., sets an example for her daughters, but beyond that all of us serve as role models for young people and it’s our collective obligation to future generations to demonstrate and practice healthy eating behavior. Near the end of the session, we actually saw how this relationship works in the other direction. We hold our classes at the West Oakland Senior Center and every week they hand out free loaves of bread. This week Destiny and Eunique put the curriculum into practice and opted for a loaf of seeded whole wheat bread instead of white bread. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of young people to set an example for all of us as well.

(Photo: Eunique and Destiny stir the lentil chili)

On top of cooking and sharing curriculum, our priority this week was exploring alternative ways to monetize the Get Cooking! model, besides selling meals to participants. As our class takes place at the Senior Center, we decided to try to sell extra meals to the seniors at the end of the class. We had two leftover chicken enchilada meals for four that we had frozen after last week and we sold those easily for $7 each. However it was a bit trickier to sell this week’s lentil chili. Again, those lentils are unfamiliar and even scary to some. Going forward we’ll have to incorporate sampling into any additional sales of meals. Luckily we have 4-5 leftover lentil chili meals in the freezer that we can use for future retail experiments, both at the Senior Center and hopefully at other locations around the community.

Until next week!

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