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Alameda Kitchen: Carrot Soup, Ugly Produce, and a Brewing Vision

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Chef Sanaz (left) and Chef Ronny (right) preparing carrot ginger soup out of surplus produce at APC.

The smell of ginger filled the air and ruby red pomegranate seeds glistened like gems in a mixing bowl. Chef Sanaz and Chef Ronny chatted about the best kinds of kitchen knives, the latest updates from Food Network’s “Chopped” series, and “molecular gastronomy,” a term that a non-chef might assume refers to a physics concept rather than a cooking theory.

Surplus produce – including carrots, potatoes, and bell peppers – donated by Imperfect Produce and stored at Alameda Food Bank. This produce is all too “ugly” to make it to the supermarket!

Last Wednesday, with the leadership of two creative volunteer chefs, Sanaz and Ronny, Food Shift transformed surplus produce into an aromatic carrot ginger soup. Earlier that morning, we collected “ugly” carrots, bell peppers, onions, potatoes — even a pomegranate and a few plums — donated from Imperfect Produce.  All of this produce was fresh, local, and delicious, but unable to make it to grocery stores based solely on cosmetic standards. In Alameda Point Collaborative’s kitchen space last week, we proved that this “ugly” produce deemed as waste by our society can be transformed into delicious, hearty meals.

This recipe testing was the first big move towards the launch of Alameda Kitchen, Food Shift’s new program that will begin in early 2016. Alameda Kitchen will source thousands of pounds of otherwise-wasted produce and train and employ individuals overcoming difficult life circumstances to transform it into nutritious food products like soups, salads, and smoothies. The meals and snacks produced will be sold and donated to local businesses and food assistance agencies, and the revenue generated will pay wages for trainees and sustain other program costs. The program will aim to bring out the full potential of people and food alike.

Chef Ronny blending the soup.

Chef Ronny blending the soup.

Alameda Kitchen will operate within Alameda Point Collaborative (APC), a housing community for individuals and families previously without a home in the City of Alameda. While 99% of residents at APC live below the poverty line, only 10-15% are employed. Alameda Kitchen will engage and employ residents, providing them with a livable wage, practical culinary and work readiness skills, and post-program job placement support.

Chef Sanaz finished pouring the last bit of the creamy orange soup into bowls and Chef Ronny topped each bowl with a colorful apple-plum-pomegranate salsa. An APC resident came by and tested out the soup, giving her approval. “This is really good, I wouldn’t change a thing!” Marsha and Hameeda, two staff members at APC, gave a thumbs up as well.

To follow our latest progress with Alameda Kitchen, sign up for Food Shift’s newsletter here.

If you are a business or organization potentially interested in donating surplus food or purchasing food products from the program – including soups, sandwiches, smoothies, and more – please contact Food Shift’s Program Coordinator, Hanna, at hanna@foodshift.net.

Carrot ginger soup with an apple-pomegranate-plum salsa.

Ta-da!  Carrot ginger soup with an apple-plum-pomegranate salsa.


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