Feeding Change: Farming Hope in San Francisco

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Have you ever wondered where our donated produce goes in the Bay Area? How you can make an impact on hunger and unemployment? Where you can sample creative dishes that actually support a meaningful cause? If you answered yes to any of the above then you’ll love learning about our friends at Farming Hope!

Farming Hope hosts weekly Feastly meals that are both a fundraising opportunity and a training ground for their culinary job training program. At Farming Hope’s weekly meals, Chef Kevin and culinary students prepare Mexican cuisine inspired by his grandmother. We took time to connect with Melody Lan, COO at Farming Hope, to learn a little bit more about it. We are so excited to share more about their work and show you some beautiful dishes made with Imperfect produce at their last community meal with guest chef Nicholas Balla of Duna and Smokebread.

IF: What is Farming Hope’s primary mission?

ML: To employ and empower our neighbors looking for a path to self-sustainability by growing, cooking, and serving food.

IF: What is the inspiration behind Farming Hope?

ML: We’re inspired by the work of Sembrando Esperanza, in El Salvador, where farmers have created a similar kitchen and farm model.

Our co-founders Kevin Madrigal and Jamie Stark met shucking corn at the Stanford Farm, and started talking about the need for similar opportunities in San Francisco. Kevin, a South San Francisco native, started pop-up dinners using traditional Mexican recipes from his grandmother, adding a plant-based modern take on her menus.

IF: How many individuals have been impacted by Farming Hope?

ML: In our first year, 2017, we hired and trained eight folks facing employment barriers, and together fed over 2,000 guests at our dinners. As we build toward opening a cafe, we hope to double both numbers by next year!

IF: How has Imperfect impacted your reach?

ML: We are now able to focus our time, efforts, and funds on our job training program instead of having to make multiple stops to purchase expensive vegetables at markets. In particular, it has made more funds available to us to hire more team members. At the same time, we are able to inch even closer to our goal of becoming a sustainable organization by helping to eliminate food waste when we prepare and serve a gourmet, nutritious meal. By using Imperfect, we have also been able to appeal to even more San Franciscans who care deeply about food waste and environment.

IF: How do you use Imperfect fruits and veggies?

ML: All the produce we get from Imperfect is made into a delicious dish for our multi-course community dinners, from creamy vegan zucchini soup and roasted miso carrots on a bed of sautéed leafy greens to brûléed nectarines with vegan whipped cream. Tickets sales for these community dinners in turn pay for the hard work our employees do while on the job training to create a better life for themselves.

IF: How can folks get involved?

ML: Join us for a Thursday pop up dinner! Break bread around our table and learn how to get more involved in your community. Tickets are available on our website.

IF: Anything else you would like folks to know about farming hope?

ML: Never underestimate the power of eating together at the same table. Dining with us regularly is the key to helping your neighbors pave a path to self-sustainability.

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