Thursday, April 7, 2011

Food for families

 Jesse Mccollum and Danielle Rodoni prepare several courses for the “Food For Families” project
By Shari Faye Dell (West Marin Citizen April 7, 2011)
What began as a casual conversation in front of Smiley’s Schooner Saloon has become a growing weekly production of arugula pesto pasta, veggie frittatas, lasagna and key lime pie.
“We had three friends who had just given birth,” explains Serita Basilio-Lewis. Recalling the conversation, “It would be really nice to cook for them, lets just do that.”
“It was just that simple,” adds Danielle Rodoni.
Helping hands
For seven weeks running the two women prepared, packaged and delivered meals to families with newborns, as well as, a woman undergoing treatment for cancer and a woman recovering from surgery.
“The second week we found out about someone else, [added to the three friends with newborns]that was the fourth family. The third week we cooked for five families,” says Basilio-Lewis. “The fifth week there were seven.”
While there are no income or circumstantial guidelines to differentiate who the helping hands serve, Rodoni describes it, “Just community oriented stuff, wouldn’t you like it if you were ill or ailing and someone came by and brought you meals?”
“We aren’t looking at the money aspect of it either,” says Basilio-Lewis, “several of the families we cook for could probably afford to hire someone, but that is not what it is about. I don’t want to say that we do this for the needy, that would be the wrong context. The food is for people that welcome a little help.”
It began with the desire to nurture mothers with newborns, “Some of them have older children. It is hard–trying to cook for a husband, the children and still see to the needs of a newborn and yourself–postpartum.”
Supplies run low
Basilio-Lewis and Rodoni purchased all the necessary ingredients for the first couple of weeks out of their own tight budgets. “We realized we couldn’t afford to keep buying all the food, there was one week we had no produce and no idea what we were going to do,” says Rodoni.
“We were both flat broke, sitting out front and talking, I literally had five dollars,” Basilio-Lewis laughs. “We have to get creative with it, we’ll use canned food.”
A local overheard them talking and said hang on, be right back. He returned with six bags of arugula, some chard, kale, cilantro and carrots, explaining he trades his own diary products weekly for produce.
The following week, a friend living in Point Reyes Station, who also barters for produce,  made a welcomed delivery of fresh greens and roots.
Broadening the reach
Basilio-Lewis took up volunteer work at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center, helping out in the food pantry and with the senior meal on Thursdays. Reciprocating, the pantry has provided additional supplies for the Bolinas based project come to be known as Food For Families.
Word travels fast in small towns; other community members began donating produce from local farms. Several trips to the weekly S.F. Food Bank distribution at the Bolinas Community Center helped garner some staples for the food coffer.
Last week, neighbor and friend Jason Glavis made arrangements to allocate twenty percent of the cover charge from two shows: one at 19th and Broadway in Fairfax featuring SAGE and another at Smiley’s with a line up of local hip hop, rap and DJ artists. Several hundred dollars were raised.
“Organically, people hear of the need and offer things up,”
For the long haul
“We deliver to Stinson Beach and Bolinas families after we are done making the food,” Basilio-Lewis explains. “We are taking on two Point Reyes families this week. One of the mom’s works here in Bolinas and will pick up the food. But, theoretically we could do Point Reyes deliveries.
“We plans to keep doing this. As more people hear about it, more and more people want to help,” she explains.
Looking ahead, they plan to organizing a roster of volunteers to take turns with various aspects of the food prep and delivery side of the production. Basilio-Lewis says, “I love the idea of it growing its own legs and becoming a community wide effort; keep it going for anyone who needs it.”
“I don’t even see them [Basilo-Lewis and Rodoni]. I get home and there is a grocery bag full of delicious food on the porch,” say Dani Vincent, Bolinas resident and mother of a five-week old baby girl. Vincent returned to nursing school just nine days after the baby was born and plans to graduate in May. She currently is working 12 hour shifts at UCSF, work experience necessary to graduate. “I think of them as dinner fairies,” she says. “All the food is in individual packages. I can take it to school and not think about it. If I had to feed myself I would be stuck with a bag of chips and an apple.”

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