Shannon Ratliff, Outreach Manager, SunCoast Market Co-op
Providing access to healthy foods and supporting local farms and businesses is SunCoast Market Co-op’s mission. In the South Bay, this can be a challenge. So, when SunCoast was contacted by The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano to help distribute 100 donated Winter Field Kits to Imperial Beach area families, they couldn’t say no.
Every quarter, The Ecology Center curates a box of fresh ingredients from their farm to create a meal and activity kit for school-aged kids. Kids follow recipes to create meals that highlight healthy and locally grown foods. This aligns perfectly with events that SunCoast Market likes to provide to the community.
Given the isolation that students have experienced this year, SunCoast wanted to enhance the Field Kit experience with an interactive opportunity. The Co-op solicited the help of a favorite San Diego foodie, Chef Christina Ng of Berry Good Food Foundation, and filmed a cooking class with Imperial Beach kids. Once students picked up their recipe kits, they could register for a live Cook-A-Long with SunCoast Market or view the recorded lesson.
When the distribution day arrived, SunCoast volunteers distributed 100 Field Kits, donated by the CEK Foundation, and over 50 kids participated in a cook-a-long class. Working together online, the kids prepared butternut squash soup with crisped kale and crusty bread. The students learned knife skills, cutting techniques, and even how to peel and cut a winter squash.
To our surprise, the kids were excited to try new foods and chat with each other about their new found chef skills! One participant was heard saying, “Mom! This is a squash that was grown on a REAL FARM!”
These exclamations are what drives SunCoast to continue the work of educating students and adults on the importance of knowing about the foods we eat and where they come from. Through these shared learning experiences, we not only improve the eating habits and health of our community but impact the local economy and improve our food system.
In 2021, SunCoast Market Co-op has supported over 300 students in healthy cooking programs. SunCoast has been fortunate to partner with The Ecology Center on two Field Kit distributions to date, The Chefs de Cuisine Association Education Foundation on an 8-part “Cooking with Chefs” series, and a 4 part “Cooking for Salud Teens” program with Olivewood Gardens (funded by the Childhood Obesity Initiative).
As a cooperative grocery store, SunCoast aims to act as a model for other low-moderate income communities who want to make it easier for residents to have access to healthy and locally grown foods. When we open our doors as a full-service grocery store, we will also open the doors to a community health hub, providing ongoing educational opportunities for people who need it most. To learn more and support SunCoast Market, visit www.suncoastmarket.coop