Delayed but undeterred by the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Mark’s Priest and Rector Randall Day and his team transformed their commercial kitchen into the SYV Community Kitchen. The vision for this community food access center was to increase local food security, entrepreneurship, and education through preparing and delivering meals, coordinating micro-economic projects, and facilitating cooking classes.
Realizing that between their two organizations they had the tools (access to gleaned healthy produce and a fully equipped kitchen) to provide locally sourced nutrient dense meals to food insecure community members, Veggie Rescue and St. Mark’s teamed up to expand food access in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Veggie Rescue recovered nearly 2,000 pounds of winter squash from Tutti Frutti Farms and decided it was time to activate the kitchen. Local chef Stephanie Valentine developed a butternut squash soup recipe and helped lead a group of volunteers in the SYV Community Kitchen to prepare meals that would be delivered to families and seniors throughout the county. Each container of soup was labeled with bi-lingual nutrition information and suggestions for how to season or garnish it to satisfy individual tastes.
Future plans for activation:
Santa Ynez Valley Community Kitchen at St. Mark’s hopes to partner with more organizations like Veggie Rescue so that the meal program can be scaled up to serve as a countywide resource.
- “When the Food Action Plan came out we were excited because this is exactly in line with what we want to do. We’ve wanted to activate our commercial kitchen for community use for a long time.”
- “With a shared vision to bring volunteer cooks into this new food hub to prepare meals with rescued food, we are providing prepared meals to those in our community that may not otherwise have access to nutritious, locally grown produce.”
- “This project has created a countywide hub for teaching, training, nutrition, and distribution.”
- “This is a partnership that is building, nurturing, and feeding the community.”
- “It has been a 10 year project to get to where we are now – we are grateful that we can serve as a community kitchen for organizations like Veggie Rescue and a place for the community to come together.”
- “SYV Community Kitchen is bridging access to food and making use of rescued produce that would have otherwise gone to a landfill.”