Monday, July 25, 2011

Adventures in Social Entrepreneurship, week four: touring the social venture landscape

The theme of this past week’s class was local and seasonal produce. Everyone was really excited to learn about places within West Oakland where they can buy local fruits and vegetables, like Mandela Marketplace, O.B.U.G.S. (Oakland Based Urban Gardens), and City Slicker Farms locations. The idea of keeping dollars within the local community and supporting local farmers really resonated with the participants. Most of them didn’t know there were places in West Oakland where they could access local produce.

Furthering the theme of seasonal produce, we snacked on a Pear Celery Salad and cooked Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers. The peppers were stuffed with brown rice, walnuts, carrots, peas, fresh herbs and tomato sauce. Christy brought in a plate of cooked peppers for us all to sample before we made them ourselves and they were delicious. Most of our participants would never think of making stuffed peppers without any meat but they were pleasantly surprised. As Josephine R. explained to Cynthia B., who joined us for the first time this week, “In this class, I’m trying foods I never would’ve tasted before.”

(Photo: This week’s Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers)

This week I was really impressed by our participants’ progress on their weekly goals. Josephine R. succeeded at her goal of going to the gym three times over the past week, of which she was very proud. This next week she’s going to combine three of her past goals: going to the gym, drinking water, and eating vegetables every day. Sandra S. had set a pretty ambitious goal of eating absolutely no sugar over the past week. She succeeded on four of the seven days, which is something I’m not sure I could do. Now Sandra is setting her sights on exercising five days over the next coming week. Each week our participants push themselves a little harder.

(Photo: Cynthia B stirs the brown rice and veggie stuffing)

Outside of Get Cooking!, my fellow interns and I have been exposed to a handful of other exciting social ventures this summer. New Foundry has planned some awesome field trips for us, including tours of Juma Ventures, Green Streets, Community Housing Partnerships Enterprises, and Rubicon Bakery . Each of these organizations impressed me with their innovative methods of accomplishing social change. I especially enjoyed our Juma tour, probably because it was coupled with attending a Giants game and I’m a huge fan. Juma’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty by ensuring that young people complete a four-year college education. They accomplish this mission through a few programs. The program we witnessed was employing youth to sell concessions at sports venues in San Francisco, the East Bay, and San Diego. We met a ton of teens selling snacks across AT&T Park and learned about how Juma runs the business to compete with other non-socially-oriented vendors.

Rubicon Bakery was also an exciting field trip. The bakery has a social mission to employ residents of Richmond, where the bakery is headquartered, and nearby communities. It produces amazing cakes and cookies, most of which are sold under private label for some of the biggest grocers in Northern California, while still maintaining the social value of job and opportunity creation in an underserved community. Best of all, we got to sample the chocolate mousse cake, which tasted as good as it looks.

(Photo: Rubicon Bakery’s Chocolate Mousse Cake)

Stay tuned for our next session when we focus on healthy eating for families and kids, and prepare a kid-friendly macaroni and cheese (there’s spinach hidden inside, shhh!!).

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