Monday, December 12, 2016

FoodWhat Wraps Up 10th Year!

It has been a big year for FoodWhat, and we are grateful to  the many supporters, community partners, teachers, parents, staff, and youth who make what we do possible.    

This month, several of our FoodWhatters are bringing workshops lik"Trace Your Taco," "What You Drink What You Think," and "Eat a Rainbow" to 100 high school students in South County! The goal of this series to bring nutrition and food justice awareness to youth through peer-to-peer education. 

Community Educator Uriel Reyes partners with Watsonville youth group J√≥venes Sanos to share information on food systems, farm worker rights, and ways we can support our environment and local economy while eating tacos!

Maria Perez invites students to think about alternative ways to eat outside of the industrial conventional food system.

Thanks to the FoodWhat fam, this year we partnered deeply with 48 stellar teens in our core programs:
  • 88% of FoodWhat youth reported that they improved their leadership skills
  • 76% told us they now eat more fruits and vegetables
  • 100% of youth responded that they feel more prepared to get and keep a job after FoodWhat!
The FoodWhat Crew grew and ate or distributed over 2,300 pounds of fresh, organic produce!
FoodWhat youth reached another 650 teens and community members through big events on the farm and peer education!

It is with great excitement for the beginning of our second decade, and a tinge of bittersweetness for our goodbye to co-founder Abby Bell after 10 years of service, that we say so-long to 2016. 

Here's to more decades of youth empowerment, food justice, and smiles like Essy's!

See you in 2017!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November Photo of the Month - 42 of us in this photo!

The Photo-of-the-Month shares a moment, highlight, or story to offer connection to the experiences at "Food, What?!"  This month is a special message about gratitude.

Yes, tough two weeks and a long road ahead.

Today, this photo of FoodWhat alumni at our 10-Year Celebration jumped out at me and sparked a feeling of hope. These youth and their adult allies make up the world I want to live in...shiny, deep, playful, Black, immigrant, Jew, indigenous, LGBTQ, skater, hippy, baller, Muslim, Latinx, female, forward, shy. Everyone is welcome. Everyone works to respect one another, our differences and our similarities, even when it's uncomfortable. Together we cultivate a safe space and build family. We're tearing DOWN walls. We grow food and eat together. We serve our many communities. We work to protect the earth now and for the generations that come after us. We won't normalize or accept hatred or bigotry. We protect and lift up youth voices. We are responsible to each other. Each in our own way, and together, we push to overcome the sexism, xenophobia, racism, white supremacy, and all other systems of oppression that we live in.

And we are not alone. YOU are part of this loving community and play a role in building a more inclusive, just society. And the incredible constellation of organizations and groups and individuals like us across the nation are coming together, caring for each other, and rising to the challenges before us.

As many of us dive into spaces of gratitude this weekend, we are grateful for you, for your presence, your passion, your commitment, and your action.

Many blessings on your meal and at your table,
Doron, Abby, Irene, Anna, Deonte, David, and the FoodWhat Crew

Friday, October 28, 2016

A special message from Abby...

Friends, Partners, and Community,

It was almost 10 years ago to the day that Doron called me to invite me to partner with him in creating a youth empowerment and farming program. When I agreed to help, I had no idea that the creation of FoodWhat would so deeply define and feed me through the next decade of my life.

As I reflect back on the last 10 years, I consider myself one of the luckiest people to have been so intimately involved with FoodWhat's birth and growth and the lives of so many inspiring, powerful people, particularly youth. My work with FoodWhat has been deeply life-changing and a huge source of my inspiration. I learned more about myself and gained more than I ever dreamed possible. I am profoundly grateful to Doron, to each of the FoodWhat youth, and to the FoodWhat staff who, on a daily basis, have been my greatest teachers and reflections, have challenged me, made me laugh, made me cry, touched my heart, been the reason I get out of bed in the mornings, and have become my family.

I am humbled by the truly exceptional people, like you, who are part of the FoodWhat community. You have helped advise, build, and so graciously contribute to make FoodWhat what it is today. Without you, FoodWhat would not have the reach and profound impacts it's had on the lives of so many young people. Your support, as part of FoodWhat's community, gives me the confidence in knowing that the work of FoodWhat will continue to grow and thrive.

In a few weeks I will be moving to the Bay Area to begin the next chapter of my personal and professional journey. While November 11th will be my last day with FoodWhat, I plan to stay connected with events and other opportunities that arise. I am very excited about the trajectory of FoodWhat as an organization. I believe very strongly in the power of FoodWhat's work, its profound impact on people, the community, and the planet. I look forward to continuing to offer support in ways that I can.

Thank you for all your trust, love, encouragement, and for believing in me. It has been an honor to do this work.

With deep gratitude, humility, and love,

Abby Bell
FoodWhat Co-Founder, Youth Programs, Food and Farm Manager

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Faces of FoodWhat" Event First Friday November 4th -- Don't miss it!

"Food, What?!" First Friday Party Downtown
November 4th from 5-10pm!
Come join us for a very unique First Friday next week for an evening benefiting FoodWhat. Enjoy youth-crafted, farm-fresh food, incredible photography of youth from their farm experience this past year, and music by Marty O'Reilly, all wrapped up in a wine release party for the new Ser Winery Ventana Surfboard Syrah at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge!

The centerpiece of this fabulous evening of food, wine and music will be portraits of FoodWhat youth with an interesting twist. There will be 17 large format and bold prints for sale which will benefit FoodWhat and each portrait will then be given to the young person in the photo! David Dennis has been generously organizing this show and all his time and portrait sales will be matched 100% by Microsoft, his employer!

Free Admission + Fantastic Raffle (Patagonia Gear, Santa Cruz Warriors Tickets, Dinners at Bantam and Oswald, Instructed Climbing Trip, MAH Family Membership, Boardwalk Passes, Gift Certs to Local Coffee Shops, and more!)

This is a MUST attend First Friday event that's going to be super fun. Great food, wine, people, music, and all proceeds go to directly to FoodWhat!
Event info is at

Food Lounge
1001 Center St. in Downtown Santa Cruz
(map below)

from 5:00 - 10:00 pm

Thursday, September 29, 2016

2016 Fall Benefit Dinner a Huge Success!

   2016 Fall Benefit Dinner a Huge Success!

"Food, What?!" celebrated our 10th year with an absolutely full house of wonderful new friends and steadfast supporters, including 36 alumni from the past decade of FoodWhat!

Over 300 community members including teachers, farmers, education leaders, elected officials, local businesses, FoodWhat alumni and supporters from all over Santa Cruz County and the Bay Area came together to celebrate FoodWhat at our annual Benefit Dinner on September 18th. We are still feeling the magic of that special night. We are humbled by the phenomenal youth that we partner with, and our FoodWhat community that make this work possible. We couldn't do it without you! 

Thanks to the generosity of the FoodWhat Family, we successfully met our ambitious $50,000 fundraising goal and triggered $50,000 in matching funds from sponsors. That's $100,000 in funding for youth empowerment, leadership development, job training, health and nutrition, and food justice work in 2017! 

We have so many people to thank for making the night such a success. Our deepest thanks to our Board of Directors and table captains who brought so many folks together to celebrate and support 10 years of FoodWhat! Huge props to the FoodWhat alumni and stellar volunteers who came out to help run the event smoothly. We are super grateful to our amazing chef partners for their talent and tireless work with the FoodWhat youth crew to prepare the meal:

Chefs Heidi Schlecht and Amy Padilla, Feel Good Foods
Chef Cesario Ruiz and My Mom's Mole
Chef Chris LaVeque and El Salchichero
Chef Damani Thomas, Oswald Restaurant 
Chef Kendra Baker, Assembly Restaurant
Chef Fran Grayson, Steamer Lane Supply
Chefs Mario & Jessica Ballesteros, Ballesteros Catering 

And many thanks to our sponsors and event partners without whom the Benefit Dinner would not be possible! 

Together, we're ready for another big year.

With gratitude,
Doron,  Abby,  Anna, Irene, David, Deonte, Nathan, and the entire FoodWhat Crew

PS: We hope to see you at the next Benefit Dinner in September 2017!

Thanks again to our generous sponsors!


Youth Power Champions
The David & Abigail Kaun Fund at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County

Sustainable Future Supporters
Branwyn & Ken Wagman
Bobby Pelz & Lindsay Parker
The Stocker Family Fund at Community Foundation Santa Cruz County

Health Youth Heroes
David Soares & Suz Howells

Job Preparedness Patrons

Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Farm Systems (CASFS)
Live Earth Farm
Farm Discovery
Life Lab
Matt Farrar, Ignition Designs
Bon Appetit Management Company
Blue House Farm
Crystal Birns Photography
Companion Bakeshop
JBQAV - Quality Pro Audio
Reusable Bag Solutions
Pete Bell TV
Pie Ranch
Sports Design
Straus Family Creamery
Whale City Bakery

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fall Season at FoodWhat!

Fall Jobs have begun at FoodWhat! We currently have 16 youth employed in various jobs, including Low-Income Farm Stands, Farm & Harvest Crew, Flower Business, Culinary/Catering Crew, Event Planners, and a school garden BLAST Crew!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Photo-of-the-Month

FoodWhat Wraps Up 10th Successful Summer!

Friends and family of our 2016 Summer Crew gathered together to enjoy some delicious home-made tamales and share appreciations for a strong summer completed.
 Thank you to everyone that contributed to a 10th consecutive summer of youth success!

Friday, July 15, 2016

July Photo of the Month - pounds and pounds and pounds!

Irene and Ja'Chea rocking out one crate of the over 2600 pounds of potatoes we have harvested over the last two Fridays as part of our summer job with youth.  Plus we planted 3000 pepper plants, 14,000 lettuce starts, and put 1000 potato pieces in the ground.  There's no need for the "what" in our name with all this food we're working on!

Every Friday we work on Live Earth Farm and Farm Discovery engaging in organic agriculture and learning how to sustain hard work and push through when we reach our edge. The Summer Job Training Program is in full effect!


Hope to see you there!
Copyright © 2016 "Food, What?!", All rights reserved.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Thank you to everyone who came out to help and participate with FoodWhat?! for the 2016 Strawberry Blast Festival. It wouldn't have been this amazing if it wasn't for all of our partn
ers and youth! The Blast was planned and organized by two FoodWhat 2015 alumni, Manuel and Grace, who put on another bangin event. On Friday May 27th we welcomed 300 local high school and middle school students to the FoodWhat at the UCSC farm for a day of farm, health, and youth empowerment-based activities! The event gave youth the unique opportunity to trace a strawberry from field to plate and learned about how our local food system works! It also taught youth about food justice and real facts about the food we consume through a variety of workshops and hands-on activities, such as The Food Justice Wall, "What You Drink, What You Think", Fast Food Jeopardy, Trace Your Taco, and much more!! Students experienced how to grow their own food, harvested farm fresh organic strawberries, and dove into preparing and eating tasty healthy food like strawberry tarts and smoothies! It turned out to be such a fun and educational festival! Until next year!!

We started the day by each picking a few berries. Extra delicious when they are freshly picked.

Then we got to participate in a bunch of activities and stations. 

What you Drink, What you Think...

FoodWhat Jr Staff, Aaliyah led a workshop about
processed sugar in popular beverages and how youth can exercise
their power by choosing what to spend their $$ on

Participants engaged with fun STEM activities with MESA 

Fast Food Jeopardy

FoodWhat Jr Staff Ollie and Shin dropped some fun (and gross) facts with Fast Food Jeopardy 
FoodWhat Alum, Victoria taught people about
guerrilla gardening by making Seed Bombs

The Community Agroecology
Network (CAN) led a workshop
about the benefits of Fair Trade
and direct market transactions
with farmers 

And the favorite... Strawberry smoothies!

Many thanks to local farms Live Earth,
Dirty Girl, UCSC
and Jacobs Farm for
providing extra berries for the event!

Thanks to Straus Family Creamery
for donating milk and yogurt --YUM!

Button Making with Subject to Change from the MAH

Watsonville Wetlands Watch

Trace your Taco:
FoodWhat Alum, Uriel, led a workshop about food systems by
examining all the ingredients in a Taco Bell taco
(above) students act out what its like for cows in a CAFO
(Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation)

Organic vanilla yogurt, strawberries,
whole wheat pie crust
and Voila!

Yep, a good day it was...