Friday, May 31, 2013

Feel Good Friday - The Edible Schoolyard Project

Those of you who live in the Bay Area, and many of you who don't, are familiar with Alice Waters. She's credited with creating "California cuisine" as the owner of Chez Panisse, a Berkeley restaurant in business for over 40 years. She's known for using local, organic food and it's consistently rated as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world.  If you've been, go again and next time, take me won't you?

Alice Waters is featured in Feel Good Friday because in 1996, seeing a blighted middle school she always passed on her way to the restaurant, she was inspired to "start a garden and build a teaching kitchen that could become tools for enriching the curriculum and life of the school community." Working with the school's principal and the Center for Ecoliteracy, the Edible Schoolyard (ESY) was born. {For the full origin story, check here:}

As they say on the ESY website, "The mission of the Edible Schoolyard Project is to build and share an edible education curriculum for kindergarten through high school. Our vision is for gardens and kitchens to become interactive classrooms for academic subjects, and for every student to have a free, nutritious, organic lunch."

Since they started 17 years ago, ESY has served over 7,000 students and now operates in 2226 locations in 11 countries! All I learned about food in middle school was that a tunafish sandwich left unrefrigerated in your locker all morning won't kill you if you eat it, though it probably should. I share this only so you can make an informed decision if you're invited to dinner on the same night by me and an ESY graduate.

Want to get involved?

There are online resources for educators, parents and advocates who want to share edible education lesson plans and best practices. If you, like me, just want to eat - there are recipes there too!

You can register for the next tour of ESY Berkeley on June 6th at 9:00am, attend their annual Mothers' Day fundraising plant sale or at least like them on Facebook so you'll always know what's happening.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Project Read

Those of you who know me know I have nothing but love for the San Francisco Public Library. You can order books online and have them sent to your local branch! When your internet is down, you can roll in and use their wifi connection. If you want to learn more about San Francisco, you can go on one of their numerous, historical and, like all of their services, FREE walking tours!

In addition to all these services, there's also Project Read, a 30 year old program that provides one-on-one tutoring and workshops for English-speaking adults who seek to improve their basic reading and writing skills.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics 30 million adults in the US read at or below a 5th grade level. Project Read states that "in San Francisco, it is estimated that 80,000 adults--one in every five--have some difficulty with basic reading and writing." Never mind not being able to read books on the best seller lists, low literacy has a negative impact on people's ability to navigate basic information related to their finances and health and makes it difficult to find employment.

Years ago, I was a volunteer tutor at Project Read. I worked with a grandmother who was raising her grandchild while also working as a case manager for grandparents in the same situation. Coming up with lesson plans was a challenge for me but so rewarding when I saw the progress my learner was making.

If you want to share the gift of literacy, I encourage you to become a volunteer tutor:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS)

Welcome to another edition of Feel Good Friday! As I have no good way of linking last week's story of books in Africa to pets in San Francisco, I'll just get started.

A few weeks ago, I went to a fundraising event for PAWS, a fabulous organization in San Francisco that provides companion animal services to medically vulnerable individuals. Say what?

As they explain on their website, "PAWS began as volunteers mobilized in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.  While serving at The San Francisco AIDS Foundation Food Bank in 1986, volunteers noticed that some clients were neglecting their own nutrition and feeding donated food to their animal companions instead.  With the belief that no person should have to choose between feeding themselves or their beloved pets, the volunteers created a special food bank to carry pet food and supplies.  The demand for this new service was overwhelming and, in October 1987, PAWS became an independent, nonprofit organization."

They now provide comprehensive services for over 800 clients and their companion animals free of charge. Ranging from delivery of pet food and supplies to dog-walking and paying for veterinary services - you can volunteer to help in any of these areas. Another way to actively involved... the upcoming Doggone Fun Run! (Yes, that pun was totally intended).

As always, an easy way to stay connected is to like their Facebook page for updates on the latest and greatest. Meow!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Feel Good Friday - African Library Project

Last week, Feel Good Friday went to Africa to learn about Wangari Maathai and all the tree planting she's done in Africa. We're back in Africa again this week to talk about what sometimes becomes of trees - books!

 Boy I met in Lesotho
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 1 in 3 adults in Sub-Saharan Africa can not read. Not surprising considering most African children grow up without books. African Library Project (ALP) is changing that.

ALP was started by Chris Bradshaw in 2005 after a trip to Lesotho. While visiting she learned that there was only one library in the country and she knew she had to do something. ALP is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that coordinates book drives in North America, then partners with African communities to turn these donated books into small libraries. 
Chris Bradshaw

To date people have donated and shipped over one million books! ALP has a grassroots approach which mobilizes US volunteers, from schools, clubs - really anyone who wants to get involved - to organize book drives then ship the books to a partner library in Africa. The African school is required to provide the space, bookshelves and staffing for the library in order to encourage sustainability. They also specify the types of books that would have the greatest impact.

Libraries are cool - why don't you get one started?

Want to learn more? Watch a short video called One Million Books. Read articles at Communicate Good and the Huffington Post or friend them on Facebook. I did.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Feel Good Friday - Wangari Maathai

Last week we talked about a group planting trees in San Francisco. A recent Facebook post by a friend inspired me to spend this week talking about a woman planting trees in Kenya.

Wangari Maathai
Her name is Wangari Maathai and she was an environmental and political activist. She founded the Green Belt Movement (GMB) in Kenya in 1977 "to respond to the needs of rural Kenyan woman who reported that their streams were drying up, their food supply was less secure, and they had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing. GMB encouraged the women to work together to grow seedlings and plant trees to bind the soil, store rainwater, provide food and firewood, and receive a small monetary token for their work." (

She's the author of four books, the subject of a documentary film called Taking Root and the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to "sustainable development, democracy and peace".

She was super bad ass and (because I'm short on time) I encourage you to follow the links below to learn more about her or buy one of her books!

Learn more about the Green Belt Movement:

Like GBM on Facebook:

Read a book: "Unbowed, A Memoir"

In her own words, "We have a responsibility to protect the rights of generations, of all species, that cannot speak for themselves today. The global challenge of climate change requires that we ask no less of our leaders, or ourselves."