As chickens scratched the ground nearby, 40 “farm-foodies” met the morning of October 21, 2011, at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in National City to watch a selection of short films produced by the Nourish organization, talk with Nourish director Kirk Bergstrom, and discuss food and nutrition as relates to community.
San Diego County’s Healthy Works hosted the breakfast as part of its Nourish Day, a local warm-up to the inaugural national Food Day held October 24.
Those attending the Nourish Day breakfast had a connection to food, including farmers, growers, chefs, restaurant owners, produce distributors, students, professors, nutritionists, farmers market
operators, food advocates, policymakers, and local nonprofit program staff, volunteers, and interns.
The participants discussed food-system reform at the local level, including recent changes to land-use policies throughout the region. As Bergstrom facilitated, breakfast participants made new friends and connections as they talked about barriers that limit access to healthy food.
Part of the discussion centered on expanding support to organic farmers and suppliers. San Diego County has a substantial agricultural sector and is home to more than 6,000 farms—more than any other county in the United States.
Chef Flor Franco, one of the volunteers who teaches children’s cooking classes at Olivewood, recalled growing up on a farm in Veracruz, Mexico. She was reminded of the days when abundant, fresh, whole foods supported family traditions built around home-cooked meals.
“When I come and cook at Olivewood, I go back to my childhood,” Franco said.
Franco’s company, Indulge Contemporary Catering, provided the mouth-watering, farm-style breakfast. Most of the ingredients were harvested at Olivewood Gardens, from the squash and onions to the eggs used in the frittatas.
Continuing the “Eat Fresh, Buy Local” campaign message later that day at a free public event, San Diego celebrated local food during a picnic-style film presentation of the film “Nourish: Food and Community,” under the stars on the great lawn at High Tech High.
The purpose of the afternoon was simple: encourage our community to be curious about finding the story of their food, while celebrating local produce, local farmers, and the personal and community health benefits of good nutrition.
Before the screening, a unique “pop-up” farmer’s market welcomed community interaction, with local farmers selling their fresh produce to students, families and community members. A multitude of active organizations shared information on their involvement as a Healthy Works intervention, partner group, or non-profit organization dealing with nutrition, food, and health. The Network for a Healthy California provided physical-activity stations named “Apple Toss, Coconut Bowling, and Lettuce Dribble” for children of all ages.
The public had the opportunity to meet local farmers and sample their fresh produce and hot foods, while farmers spoke about how they bring farm fresh produce to San Diego County stores, schools, and restaurants. Other textile goods and plants were also available for purchase, proving the variety of products that can be sourced, made, and sold locally.
The Nourish film took us on the journey of food from a global angle to an individual relationship. Preceding the screening was a short documentary film from Speak City Heights that focused on growing food in the city. Malaki Obado, former Director of the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots Aqua Farm, tells us: “People like to see plants, especially where there is a deficiency of plants. It kind of brings good in people. So besides just producing food in the city, I think it’s providing an opportunity for people to interact.”
Following the film, a public-panel discussion on local food and nutrition was the perfect outlet for curious community members to share their questions and opinions. Keynote speaker Seth Nickinson, the U.S. Field Director for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, joined the discussion and spoke to the enthusiastic group on nutrition and community health, as well as the power of the people to generate new ideas concerning food and nutrition in our communities.
By Chelsea Fiss, UC San Diego-Center for Community Health Retail Program Manager