Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adventures in Social Entrepreneurship, week five-and-a-half: sharing the model with our community

This Monday we held a special Get Cooking! session at our workspace, the Hub San Francisco. The Hub is a co-working space for purpose-driven entrepreneurs with locations around the world, including San Francisco and Berkeley. The Hub San Francisco recently opened a second floor with a beautiful new kitchen that we were lucky enough to be able to use for the evening. We invited Hub members and their friends for a 90-minute cooking session on Monday evening. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about Get Cooking! at the Hub, get some feedback on the Get Cooking! model, raise a little bit of money to support our work in West Oakland, and celebrate healthy cooking by preparing a summer vegetable lasagna that each participant could take home and serve to friends and family.

(Photo: the ingredients for our summer vegetable lasagna)

We filled the event to capacity with 13 participants, which was very exciting. To kick off the evening, we served a snack from our West Oakland program: a fruit and veggie smoothie, loaded with fresh spinach. The sweetness of the berries and bananas mask the taste of the greens, making it a great way to get green veggies into your daily diet especially for people who don’t like to eat greens. While everyone enjoyed the smoothie, Jade and I shared a little bit about New Foundry Ventures and the Get Cooking! model. We then gave a mini-lesson on food justice, defining the term “food insecure community,” or “food desert,” and talking about the food access challenges our participants face in West Oakland.

After ten minutes of talking it was time to start cooking. Our summer veggie lasagna involved a lot of chopped vegetables, so everyone teamed up to tackle the heaping bowls of fresh organic bell peppers, chile peppers, eggplants, portobello mushrooms, onions and garlic that I had picked up earlier that day at Bi-Rite Market and Trader Joe’s. All these veggies were sautéed for ~25 minutes with some olive oil and diced tomatoes, which we then partially blended to yield a chunky (and delicious) vegetable sauce. A few participants led the pesto production, blending up basil, Italian parsley, pine nuts, walnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, and olive oil, and mixing the pesto with chopped spinach.

(Photo: Chris M. and others tackle the chopping)

While we waited for the veggies to cook, we all sat down, talked about ways to combat food access problems, and discussed the Get Cooking! model. Our attendees had lots of great ideas that we hadn’t thought of before, including Lloyd C.’s idea of helping our West Oakland participants that don’t own cooking equipment team up and cook dinners together. We were also surprised to hear from every attendee that they’d be interested in participating in cooking sessions at the Hub on a regular basis, ideally monthly. Everyone loved the idea of socializing with other Hub members and connecting while cooking together. Hosting additional sessions in the future is something we’ll keep in mind going forward.

Once the veggies were cooked and the sauce blended, everyone took turns assembling their personal lasagna: sauce, noodles, pesto, noodles, sauce, noodles, pesto... we definitely needed a mnemonic device to keep that straight. When we finished, attendees had a meal ready to take home and pop in the oven. Quick, easy and healthy: that’s the goal of the Get Cooking! model and we’re so happy we were able to share it with our neighbors at the Hub. Special thanks to Bi-Rite Market and Trader Joe’s for their support of the event, and thanks to all our attendees!

(Photo: I assemble a sample lasagna and Zach W. follows me down the assembly line)

(Photo: attendees assemble their lasagnas)

(Photo: Jeff D. and Michelle F. layer on the pesto)

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