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Reflections on the impact of the Alameda Kitchen program

Guiselle prepares fruit for dehydration in the Alameda Kitchen - one of many skills she learned in the program.

Guiselle prepares fruit for dehydration in the Alameda Kitchen – one of many skills she learned in the program.

Scraping leftovers into the trash, tossing out unused and ugly produce, and rarely utilizing her freezer for storage, Guiselle Reyna says in hindsight, “I didn’t realize how much food I wasted until interning with Food Shift’s Alameda Kitchen!”

Prior to Guiselle’s on-the-job-training program at the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC), like many of us, she had not yet been introduced to the woeful statistic: 40% of U.S. food production is going to waste while 50 million Americans are food insecure.

This 34-year-old single mother to 5 children has now graduated from Food Shift’s Alameda Kitchen six-month socially conscious employment & training program which engages and inspires participants around the power of food to nourish communities. Beginning in her own household by composting, converting food waste into delicious meals, and properly storing fruits and vegetables, the hands-on and skills-based approach has trained Guiselle to become ServSafe certified, giving her a marketable certification in the food and beverage industry – an invaluable asset.

In the first phase of the pilot program Food Shift received boxes of “cosmetically challenged” fruits and veggies from Imperfect – an imperfect produce delivery service.  With this produce, Guiselle’s cohort would produce and deliver soup to City Team in downtown Oakland each week where they serve 150 meals per day to individuals overcoming addiction, homelessness, and incarceration.

Alameda Kitchen’s larger vision is to build a financially viable social enterprise which not only creates a space to process and preserve surplus food that would otherwise be wasted, but also sends knowledgeable and skillful participants out into the workplace with confidence and credentials. This unique combination can profoundly resonate with both participants and employers and has the potential for broad impact in the San Francisco Bay Area as the program scales and increases impact.

Guiselle is now employed at the Alameda Point Collaborative Farm as a steward of soil production via composting, building upon the foundational knowledge and skills she acquired in her Alameda Kitchen training. “I compost now,” she says with pride. “My kids are also now attentive to food waste, ugly produce, and that gives me great satisfaction.”

When asked about the Alameda Kitchen’s personal impact, Guiselle’s voice blossoms with pride, “I’m bragging about the program … to APC residents, family, and friends.” It is clear that Food Shift’s Alameda Kitchen has been transformational.

She is thoughtful in offering her counsel. “Before you empty your plate into the garbage, think about the people around the world who are hungry. We are beyond blessed to have access to food in this country. Others aren’t so lucky … Have heart and think before tossing out perfectly edible food.”

On February 5, 2017, Food Shift’s Alameda Kitchen will launch its second class and hire 4 new participants to maximize otherwise-wasted food donations, distribute food products to food insecure communities, and employ APC residents to increase their confidence and knowledge to make a difference in their community. What would Guiselle say to the interested participants? “It is a lifetime opportunity to make a difference.”

Please consider making a tax deductible donation to Food Shift to support the expansion of the Alameda Kitchen program.


Written by Tony Schwartz, Food Shift volunteer and passionate environmentalist.

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