Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The First Annual Winter Gathering!

Thank you for supporting us in this successful event!

On Thursday, February 21st the candles were lit and food was set out at the downtown Santa Cruz Patagonia store as the FoodWhat staff and youth crew awaited the arrival of our guests for the first annual Winter Gathering. As the clock struck 7:00 PM, the best and brightest of Santa Cruz made their way into the space for an evening of education, good food, and mingling. This was the first time FoodWhat has hosted an event off-site, and we knew Patagonia would provide the perfect space to showcase our work and bring our FoodWhat Family together. The night was planned as a celebration for the FoodWhat community and the evening delivered a close-knit, emotional, and inspirational hour and a half for those in attendance.

In the first moments of the evening, guests snacked on youth prepared foods like beet and citrus lettuce boats (with produce from Live Earth Farms), gushed over the spanikopita, and crunched on dilly beans as they mingled with each other at high-top tables. At 7:15, Doron took the stage to introduce the youth and describe the evening’s agenda. The format that evening was unique with twelve youth leading the charge and stepping up to the plate with everything from food prep to workshop presentations. It truly gave our community a taste of the leadership and dedication intrinsic to FoodWhat. 

First, the youth crew gave food justice workshops in small groups on topics such as “Fast Food Jeopardy” and “Youth Dollar Power”. The youth had spent two weeks prepping the workshops they planned to teach at the Gathering and they floored guests with their knowledge and facilitation. As I wandered the room catching snippets of each workshop, I noticed Santa Cruz Mayor Hilary Bryant’s jaw dropping as she learned how many scoops of sugar are in the Rock Star Energy Drinks teenagers drink by the gallon. And the looks of surprise on the “Fast Food Jeopardy” groups faces when they learned that it takes 6 hours to walk off the calories from a fast food cheeseburger.

After the workshops, we gathered around the high-top tables in groups of four or five and chose question cards from a jar that gave youth and guests an opportunity to connect on a more personal level. The cards asked questions such as, “How has FoodWhat impacted your life?” and “What inspires you?" There were also more fun, food based topics like “What is your favorite food memory?” or “What is your favorite food from your cultural background?”. These questions gave us an opportunity to reflect on our connections with FoodWhat, and gave us insight into how we each got to that table, on that night.

Finally, one of our Alumni from 2009, Brandon, gave a heartfelt account of how FoodWhat has affected his life and helped him on his journey into sobriety to become the incredible person he is today. Brandon spoke candidly and honestly of the struggles he has faced with drugs and alcohol, how he dealt with them, and the road he has travelled to overcome his hardships. I looked around the room, and saw emotion in everyone’s eyes as he recited a spoken word poem about leading himself out of his own fogginess and darkness to the experience of realizing a brighter future.

THANK YOU Brandon for sharing your story. This week we celebrate your one year anniversary of taking control over your life and stepping into your strength and power.  We honor you for the work you have done and for this one year anniversary of achieving complete sobriety! We love you and appreciate having you as part of the FoodWhat family...

The night started winding down around 8:30PM, and Abby pulled out a tray of the long awaited Penny Ice Creamery sandwiches before we said “goodnight” to our guests.

Of course, everyone went crazy for them, and we were happy to top off a very sweet evening with an even sweeter dessert! When the last guest made their way out the door, the youth set about picking up, sweeping, and getting the store back to normal. Each and every youth gave 110% from start to finish (after eating an ice cream sandwich, of course)!

We are grateful that our community and supporters came together to make the Winter Gathering such a success. For those who could not make it, we appreciate how you too make the achievements of FoodWhat possible, and we look forward to connecting with you soon.


Patagonia - Penny Ice Creamery - Live Earth Farm
Companion Bakeshop - El Salchichero - Feel Good Foods - Chaminade 

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