Fetching Food for Seniors

805 Living Summer 2020, Fetching Food for Seniors, story by Leslie Dinaberg.

805 Living Summer 2020, Fetching Food for Seniors, story by Leslie Dinaberg.

Stuck at home for the remainder of his junior year at San Marcos High School in Santa Barbara due to the pandemic, Daniel Goldberg felt the urge to help others in some way. He texted a few friends about it, and within a matter of days, Zoomers to Boomers (zoomerstoboomers.com), a free grocery delivery service for the elderly, was born.

Since early March, the program has grown to encompass 29 cities nationally and an affiliate in India.

“With the pandemic, I think there is this universal feeling of helplessness,” says Goldberg, “where everyone is just trying to stay away from people, and you feel like there’s nothing you can do. Just seeing how many people are reaching out and saying, ‘I want to do something similar [to Zoomers to Boomers],’ has been a very welcome surprise.”

Jackie Kaplan, one of more than 100 local volunteers, recently finalized a partnership with The Foodbank of Santa Barbara to deliver hot meals from Chef’s Kitchen to seniors, further cementing Zoomers to Boomers community collaborations.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

This story was originally published in the summer 2020 issue of 805 Living. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

 

Color Them Lattes

805 Living Summer 2020, Color Them Lattes, story by Leslie Dinaberg. Photos by Denisse Salinas.

805 Living Summer 2020, Color Them Lattes, story by Leslie Dinaberg. Photos by Denisse Salinas.

The colorful Moon Mylk Lattes at Hook & Press Donuts (hookandpressdonuts. com) in downtown Santa Barbara are more than just a pretty pour.

“We wanted to offer more than just coffee and doughnuts at Hook & Press, and a line of plant-based, adaptogenic [containing ingredients believed to help the body resist stress] drinks that are healthy, delicious, and colorful was the perfect answer,” says owner John Burnett.

Available hot or iced (perfect for summer), the blends are made with almond, coconut, or oat milk, and their colors come straight from the all natural ingredients.

Flavors include Rose Mylk Latte with rose, almond, and subtle beet notes that go perfectly with fruity doughnuts; Yerba Mate Latte, featuring a slightly grassy taste with a hint of cacao that pairs well with chocolate doughnuts; Matcha Latte, infused with green tea and citrus flavors; and Golden Mylk Latte, a mingling of warm spices that marries well with the cinnamon crumb browned-butter doughnut.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

805 Living Summer 2020, cover art by John Galan.

This story was originally published in the summer 2020 issue of 805 Living. Click here to read it as it appeared in print.

 

Unraveling the Kinks in the Local Food Chain to Build and Sustain a Resilient Food System

This story was published on cecsb.org on May 13, 2020.

Like a heat map, the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to areas of strain, places where we need to pay greater attention. One of the most noticeable of these is the food system.

This week, two of the founding members of the Santa Barbara County Food Action Network — Erik Talkin, CEO of Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, and Sigrid Wright, CEO of the Community Environmental Council — sat down with food writer Leslie Dinaberg to discuss how COVID-19 is sending shock waves through a fragile global food system, and why this is a particularly good time to build a healthy, sustainable and decentralized food system. They draw on the guiding framework of an action plan published in 2016 and developed in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Foundation, the Orfalea Foundation, and more than 200 community members.

Leslie Dinaberg: A few years ago when you were developing the Santa Barbara County Food Action Plan, your intention was to “future proof” the local food system, though presumably, you weren’t anticipating that a pandemic would test it so brutally. What are you thinking now?

Sigrid Wright: We’ve had other disasters that have had a ripple effect through the food system, but the COVID 19 pandemic is sending reverberations through the system unlike anything most of us have experienced in our lifetime, in part because it’s global, and in part because it’s both a public health crisis and an economic crisis. This is a good time to be talking about why we want to build a healthy, sustainable and decentralized food system, because the global system has a lot of fragility to it.

Erik Talkin: The food system now is so hyper-organized and so dependent on every little link of the chain from here to China and back, that one break in that chain creates a lot of problems. The Foodbank has seen a 60% decrease in the amount of food that we get donated because grocery stores are selling out of food that would normally be provided to us. At the same time, our donations from the agricultural community, primarily the Santa Maria Valley, are up by 50% from this same month last year.

So that’s an indication that local growers have products available. Obviously they have their own problems with food distribution, as there are no schools or hotels operating, but we have a system in place that has allowed excess food to be effectively used. People are reading in the New York Times and elsewhere about milk being poured away and crops being plowed under, but that’s not happening really significantly in California.

LD: Are there any supply chains that are likely to be disrupted so that you won’t be able to access certain products a few months from now?

ET: Yes, there already have been disruptions in that the supply chain is overheated and unable to respond to requests. The Foodbank spent a quarter of a million dollars a couple of weeks ago on food that we haven’t received yet, because it’s slow in coming and our order is not as big as other orders.

Overall, in theory, there’s enough food in the country, but in terms of specific foods, we are already unable to get everything we would like.

SW: The modern food system is designed for speed and convenience. It’s highly efficient and certain aspects of it are really compacted, particularly around meat processing. From what I’m hearing, I would expect to see shortages of meat within the next few months.

This relates to Santa Barbara County because although we’ve traditionally been a cattle region and still do raise a lot of cattle here, we no longer have processing facilities. The same is true of fisheries. We have access to a good amount of animal protein on the Central Coast, but everything has to be shipped out, processed, and shipped back. That was one of the many issues that surfaced with the Food Action Plan: how do we decentralize some of those processing facilities so they are local?

LD: What have you learned about Santa Barbara’s food resilience in the past couple months that you didn’t anticipate?

SW: On the production side, pretty much every small farmer and fisherman is having to think on their feet and make some drastic adjustments to their business models as people are shopping less at farmers markets, and as schools and restaurants stop their orders. They’re having to go direct-to-consumer, often in inventive ways, whether that be a pop-up farmstand or more community supported agriculture boxes. Managing those new market routes is like picking up a second job: the first one being food production, the second being the delivery and marketing through different channels.

I’m also really concerned for our local restaurants. After the Thomas Fire, many businesses were barely hanging on or were just starting to recover, and now they’ve gotten hit again. We may lose a lot of local capacity, both on the producer end with farmers and fishermen and then on the consumer end with restaurants. That to me is a sadness. I personally am not ready for a future in which I get most of my food from Amazon.

ET: There haven’t been the types of runs and shortages over the last few weeks that theoretically could have happened, but I think we are still at the beginning of this crisis. People are afraid to go out and stand in line to get food. Toward the end of the summer, once the economic impacts have really cut deep — with people who are working but have large debts, and people who are still out of work — we’ll have a huge need for additional food for the community. That food can’t all be produced here, but has to be purchased or donated within the state and nationally.

LD: Is there a government entity to help with that?

ET: There’s a national emergency food program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program that is designed to pay local distributors to put together food boxes and make those available to either Foodbanks or to be distributed directly. So we’re having to go out to all of these people and say, “Do you want to be involved in this program? You get paid to provide this food, you get paid to truck it to a particular location.” But it’s a hugely complex 17-page application. Companies like Jordano’s, which is probably our largest local direct food distributor, don’t want to be involved because there’s not enough money in it for them.

The government, in a way, is trying to respond to this issue of food being dumped by offering incentives further down the chain than previous incentives. But there’s not the time or the organization or the planning to make them successful in anything more than the very short term.

SW: The Santa Barbara County Food Action Network, which was spearheaded by CEC and the Foodbank to implement the Food Action Plan, is looking at how we deal with all of this locally. One solution is to create a food hub, so that those who have products have a central vehicle for getting information out about them.

LD: Let’s talk about how this situation is affecting labor. According to the Food Action Plan, the agricultural sector is Santa Barbara County’s primary economic driver, and nearly 20,000 residents work in food and beverage stores or service locations. What are you seeing?

SW: It’s a bitter irony that people who work in the food system — in the fields or grocery stores for example —are deemed as essential workers, and yet they are not being protected as essential workers.

In our region we are really seeing this with farm workers who just don’t have the proper protection and are often having to work shoulder to shoulder. We saw similar inequities in other crises like the Thomas Fire, where it wasn’t until groups like CAUSE and MICOP got involved when farm workers had access to the N-95 masks that everyone else already had. We need the public to strongly advocate for protection for our farm workers, our seasonal workers, our grocery workers, so that they have safe conditions.

ET: It should be a requirement for the employers to do that. Even at the Foodbank — we have very stringent rules and we’ve been wearing masks and gloves for weeks — people just can’t help congregating together in tiny spaces and I’m constantly chasing away people. (Laughs) I’ve been doing that for years, but now I have an excuse to break up the party.

LD: What are you seeing at the home level? Food waste is certainly top of mind right now because no one wants to go out and buy food any more than they have to.

ET: At the most basic level of individuals, people are being forced to reckon with having to provide for their own nutritional health and to sit down and make something to eat, which wasn’t necessarily the case in the past. This may be an opportunity for people to increase food literacy and their understanding about how to take care of themselves and be healthy with food.

SW: We’re clearly seeing a shift in shopping and eating patterns as more people are cooking at home. I know the news media are using the word “hoarding,” but I don’t love that language. What I’m seeing is that people are trying to do a couple weeks of shopping at one time to reduce their exposure. It’s good people are shifting their behavior, but that caused some of the slowdown that Erik referred to.

Again, it’s not that the supply chain has a shortage of food, although there may be some gaps in things that we may not have access to when and how we want it. I think we’ve gotten quite spoiled, frankly, because we’ve built a food system that was designed around getting things fast and conveniently. To really be resilient you need some amount of redundancy and things that are less consolidated.

LD: When you are providing food from the Foodbank, how many days worth of food are people picking up at one time?

ET: We typically give out bags of groceries that are about 30 pounds. We’ve begun to switch to boxes which are slightly bigger, so there’s a variety of dry goods, canned goods, fresh produce, fresh meat, but it’s not your total dietary or meal requirements for that period of time. The food that we provide is supposed to be a supplement to the other food you’re getting. It is possible to go to more than one place if your need is greater.

We see the need for that type of food increasing dramatically and there’s been a real kind of blockage with the USDA food. There’s definitely problems with the emergency food distribution network, as well.

LD: Beyond the critical need for emergency feeding, at this moment is there anything else that stands out from the Food Action Plan?

ET: I think people’s understanding of the need to have more fully developed local networks for both distribution and availability of food is important.

We talked earlier about the need for local processing for seafood and meat, but that’s also a need for agricultural products. For example, if facilities were available we could make spaghetti sauces and other things out of produce before it goes bad. There’s a lot of potential there, but it requires an investor. It may be something we have to think about in more of a tri-county way.

LD: That feels like such a great way to use some of those kitchens that aren’t being used right now.

SW: One of the projects of the Food Action Network was to map out sites that could serve as community kitchens. In good times they might be used to make the value-added products that Erik was talking about. If farmers had a bumper crop of tomatoes, they could hand that off to a caterer to go in for a couple of weeks and make tomato sauce, for example. In bad times like now, community kitchens could be used to help with disaster feeding.

LD: This is obviously an excellent opportunity for us to illustrate the importance of protecting the local food system. What are some things that individuals can do right now?

ET: Continuing to utilize local farmers markets, purchasing from smaller local stores to enable those stores to be able to weather the current situation, and keeping away from chain stores. I think that restaurants will be gradually opening up in a more limited fashion, so just make sure that you’re supporting local restaurants, even with a kind of take out environment that we have at the moment.

SW: At the moment there are still some strengths in the local food system, and there is some scrappiness. We are a community that does seem to care about this kind of stuff.

One of the outcomes of all of this is that people are actually talking about things like the food system, either using that phrase or having a great awareness. Hopefully that will have a positive effect. But protecting the local food system will mean that we will have to step in as individuals and really support it.

ET: Every generation needs something to wake it up a little, so I guess this is it.

Originally published on cecsb.org on May 13, 2020.

Sow Smart

Getting ready to play in the dirt this spring? The Plant Good Seed Company (plantgoodseed.com) offers a large assortment of certified organic vegetable, flower, and herb seeds, including improved rare and heirloom varieties.

“Connecting plants and people, that’s really what it’s about for me,” says co-founder and owner Quin Shakrawhose business offers hundreds of unique seeds sourced from farmland they steward in Ojai.

“I believe we’re making some really unique agricultural contributions to this region,” says Shakra, who started the business as an organic farm in 2011 but soon realized that there wasn’t a garden-based, small-scale organic seed company in the area. “It turned out that we had stumbled upon a niche that nobody else was covering here,” he says.

The seeds can be purchased seasonally at Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market and many retail stores throughout the 805 area as well as from the company’s website, which also provides free, charmingly illustrated seasonal planting calendars designed to aid customers’ planting and planning decisions for every crop in the catalog.

805 Living Spring 2020Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine 805 Living Pulse April 2020

Bodhi Path Offers Enlightened View of Technology

Bohdi Path Offers Enlightened View of Technology, from Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

Bohdi Path Offers Enlightened View of Technology, from Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

There have been many studies about technology leading to feelings of isolation, insecurity, and loneliness. We asked Dawa Tarchin Phillips, resident teacher of the Santa Barbara Bodhi Path Buddhist Center, for insight on dealing with this digital conundrum. 

Why do these feelings emerge, and how do we overcome them? When we do use technology, oftentimes we are isolating ourselves. Making an effort to connect with others, particularly around meaningful endeavors, is one way one can combat that. Whether it is volunteering for an organization where we care about the cause, or joining groups with similar interests — anything that gets us away from the screen and gets us around something that we find valuable is one way where we not only combat isolation, but [also build a sense of confidence through] involvement in something meaningful. … That also helps us with general insecurity, and doing it with others is something that helps us deal with loneliness. 

What are some techniques we could use? Practices such as mindfulness and self-compassion, which are proven to improve what is called positive affect, the general positivity of one’s thoughts and emotions. They help with releasing hormones in the brain that actually make us feel good or make us feel better. 

How can we help children prepare? The more that we can explain to children and youth about how their brain works, how their nervous system works, and how their emotions are generated, the more children are able to pay attention to that and also to restore their own balance by just understanding themselves better. 

Should we fear technology? Technology is not going to go away, so we need to move out of this idea of perceiving technology just as a threat to our well-being and to be asking the question, How can we work with technology in a way that does not diminish the quality of our lives and actually helps us maintain or increase the quality of our lives? 

Click here to read this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 7, 2019. SB Independent Schools of Thought Insert 11.7.19

AHA!’s Peace Builders Put Social-Emotional Education First

AHA From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

AHA’s Peace Builders From Schools of Thought, Santa Barbara Independent, November 7, 2019.

Nonprofit Makes Social-Emotional Learning Engaging and Fun 

Today’s students live in a world where fear of violence and concerns about mental health, anxiety, stress, depression, and feelings of isolation are sadly an acknowledged part of their lives. But there are also several bright spots in this picture. 

For one thing, educators, parents, students, and employers increasingly recognize the value of social-emotional learning (SEL) as a way to combat these challenges. Here in town, the nonprofit AHA!’s Peace Builders program works in Santa Barbara and Carpinteria schools “to help build a learning and doing community for young people who want to use their SEL skills to play a leadership role in improving the climate of their school campuses,” explains Melissa Lowenstein, AHA! programs director and facilitator. 

Ryan Sportel, the dean of student engagement at Goleta Valley Junior High, is a fan. “What is unique about AHA! that nobody else has is that they have figured out how to present and teach and practice the skills associated with social and emotional learning in a way that’s really incredibly engaging and fun and also makes sense as a human being,” he said. “It’s very relatable, and it’s very natural and organic.” 

The curriculum trains participants to be great listeners, clear and courageous communicators, and allies who can confidently support others who are being bullied or who are otherwise struggling, explained Lowenstein. 

“We believe that students gain self-confidence on how to navigate through different points of views and being more accepting to all of the different people we are surrounded with in our community,” said Nathan Mendoza, dean of students at Santa Barbara High. 

Santa Barbara High teacher Mario Rodriguez praises the program’s diversity. “Some students are recognized strong leaders, active in the direction of the peace circles and whole group conversations,” he said. “Other students are timid yet finding positive role models to fortify their own role within the organization. Some students are very sure of their identities, confident in knowing who they are as adolescents within our school and community. Other students are in the process of finding themselves, feeling safe because they will not be judged in this setting but rather supported in their personal process. To be a part of AHA! is to be heard, celebrated, and uplifted.” 

Explained Sportel, “It’s at least as valuable as any other course of study that we provide to our children.” 

Click here to read this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 7, 2019. SB Independent Schools of Thought Insert 11.7.19

2019 Best of Santa Barbara

SB Independent Best of

From the Santa Barbara Independent, October 17, 2019.

So, I had the honor of writing up the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa winners this year. It was a huge, fun project. People were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing (203 winners at last count) by clicking here, or on the PDF below.

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part1

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part2

Santa Barbara Independent Best Of Oct. 17 2019_Part3

Best of Independent Cover

Growth Experience

September 2019 805 Living Magazine Story on Funk Zone Farm.

September 2019 805 Living Magazine Story on Funk Zone Farm.

Urban agriculture is having a field day at Funk Zone Farm (Instagram: @funkzonefarm) in Santa Barbara, which opens its farm stand on the first and third Saturdays of each month in the Funk Zone.

“The response has been nothing short of heartwarming,” says Carter Hallman, who runs the farm with Sami Weiss. The couple share a background deeply rooted in food and wine and a “passion for quality grown food and how food affects our environment, health, and culture,” says Hallman.

Created on unused land surrounding the Funk Zone’s Green House Studios artists’ workspace, the farm—which produces a wide variety of veggies, fruits, and flowers—comprises 30 raised beds and a small greenhouse and involves 50 tons of soil and 30 tons of compost.

“We are hoping to influence and educate more people on what local really means on the Central Coast, how good farming affects flavors and nutrients in crops, and how good farming greatly affects our environment,” says Hallman.

“The biggest response is how joyful people look when they leave the farm. They share how we’ve inspired them to start their own backyard gardens [and] how they come back week after week to watch the crops grow, creating a connection and a newfound appreciation for what they’re eating.”  —Leslie Dinaberg

805 sept 2019 coverClick here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, September 2019. 805 Living Pulse Sept 2019

Puppy Love

September 2019 805 Living Magazine Story on Tombot.

September 2019 805 Living Magazine Story on Tombot.

Are robot puppies the next frontier in dementia treatment? Tombot, Inc. (tombot.com), working with experts from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, has created a realistic robot companion that may help improve the quality of life for a senior who can no longer care for a pet.

“Seniors in general and particularly seniors with dementia have been ignored by the tech world,” says Westlake Village–area resident Tom Stevens, founder and CEO of Tombot. Inspired in part by his mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and subsequent need to give up her beloved dog, Stevens and his team have concluded a successful Kickstarter campaign and are now ruggedizing the design specs to ship their first robotic dogs in August 2020. The basic model bot costs $450. With the World Health Organization reporting nearly 10 million new cases of dementia every year, the future looks bright for helping seniors with a new kind of puppy love. —Leslie Dinaberg

Click here to read this story as it appeared in 805 Living magazine, September 2019. 805 Living Pulse Sept 2019 805 sept 2019 cover

Body-Mind Connection

UCSB Campus Bluffs, painting by Chris Potter.

UCSB Campus Bluffs, painting by Chris Potter.

BMCA somatic movement conference focuses on embodiment and brain research, with an indigenous education element

By Leslie Dinaberg

Monday, August 5, 2019 – 10:15

Santa Barbara, CA

Bringing together more than 70 presenters from around the world, the Body-Mind Centering Association (BMCA) presents its 34th annual interdisciplinary laboratory, research and workshop conference at UC Santa Barbara August 6-11.

brooke smiley.  Photo by Peter Aguilar.

brooke smiley.  Photo by Peter Aguilar.

Hosted by brooke smiley, a lecturer in the Department of Theater and Dance, this somatic movement conference features an array of workshops, panel discussions, presentations and performances. The theme, “Self and Other,” reflects the conference emphasis on the evolving indigenous embodiment in relation to dance, song and land.

“I wanted to create a focus on what it means to value our differences and also bring focus to our interconnectedness,” said smiley.

She anticipates approximately 130 participants at the conference, which is open to the public. “It’s interesting because we have a lot of people from different realms: science, dance, academia, choreographers, dancers, therapists and infant movement development specialists,” smiley said. “Movement research takes a lot of different forms out in the world. As host, I’ve been able to be supported in bringing a focus to an indigenous educational awareness about the land here, specifically before UC Santa Barbara was here, and the dances and the songs that came from the bodies in relationship to this land.”

With that awareness in mind, the Friday, Aug. 9 plenary session led by smiley, titled “Embodying Land in Dance and Song: Addressing Decolonization in Indigenous Ceremony and Performance,” includes a panel from the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians. An indigenous dance artist herself, smiley was recently named a 2019/2020 Advancing Indigenous Performers Fellow by the Western Arts Alliance, a program made possible by a lead grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and additional support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Among the conference highlights:

• A two-part presentation by BMCA founder and Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. “Engaging Self and Other through Embodiment, Part I” will begin at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 10. Part II will take place at 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 11.

• 2019 Guggenheim Scholar Ann Cooper Albright’s two-part “Cultivating the 3R’s: Responsiveness, Resistance, Resilience” (Aug. 6 at 2 p.m. and Aug. 7 at 9 a.m. ). Cooper is professor and chair of dance at Oberlin College.

• Two evenings of dance performances (Aug. 7 and 8 at 8 p.m.) in 1151 Humanities and Social Sciences Building. Admission is free.

Founded in 1985, the BMCA is a professional organization dedicated to exploring, sharing and expanding body-mind centering work. Members reside around the world, including the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia.

Additional conference details and registration information is available at https://bmcassociation.org/conferences/2019-bmca-conference. A complete schedule of events can be found at https://bit.ly/2JHR7YJ.

Originally published in The Current (UCSB) on August 5, 2019.