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Women for Social Impact Experience Focuses on How Food Creates Connections and Changes Lives

Tuesday, May 21, 2019TOPICS: Changemaker

On May 15, 2019, over 100 women changemakers gathered for Women for Social Impact’s (WSI) final experience of the 2018-2019 season, “Women, Food, and Community: How Food Creates Connections and Changes Lives”. This experience featured four San Diego organizations that are either women-owned, women-run, or have a strong women leadership presence, and who all use food to create connections, community, and social impact. In an engaging evening, attendees had the opportunity to hear from each of these organizations and learned about how food has impacted their lives and their programs.

We gained insights on the value of sisterhood in the food industry, which is often male-dominated. We learned how immigrants and refugees have used their cultural cuisine to connect with people in their new communities here in the United States, and how it can be comforting because it reminds them of home. We learned about the value of sharing recipes to share stories and culture, and we learned what healthy eating can do for our bodies. We also learned how these organizations use food to break cycles of hunger and food waste.

First, we heard from Katrina Meredith, a Career Coach at Kitchens for Good, which is a social enterprise that works to break the cycles of food waste, poverty, and hunger through innovative programs in culinary arts training and healthy food production. Through their culinary arts training program, they train formerly incarcerated individuals in what they call “knife skills and life skills.” Not only does this program train students to become experienced in the kitchen, they also train them in the life skills needed to create and maintain healthy connections with employers and colleagues. During their training, students also have the opportunity to work in the Kitchens for Good catering program. This means in addition to their culinary arts certificate, they are getting real work experience, and profits from the catering services provide the organization with income that goes right back into the students and their courses. Meredith talked about the highly sexist nature of the food industry, and how as a Career Coach, she helps women learn how to stand up for themselves and become empowered in the workplace.

Then, we heard from Claire Groebner from Olivewood Gardens. Claire shared with us all of Olivewood’s programming that empowers youth and families from diverse backgrounds to be healthy and active through organic gardening, environmental stewardship, and nutrition education. They work to reconnect their program participants to the natural environment through food, education, and community engagement. We also heard from Susana, who was able to share her insight as one of Olivewood’s Kitchenistas. Olivewood Gardens offers a unique program called Cooking for Salud! that aims to empower families to take control of their health through the foods they eat and prepare at home. Graduates of this program are called Kitchenistas, and Susana was extremely passionate as she shared her story with us. She discussed how she’s learned to make healthy choices for her and her children, and how she loves engaging with her community through Olivewood Gardens. Susana and Claire also led the group in a guacamole-making demonstration, where each table of attendees was able to make their own guacamole and enjoy it with freshly pressed tortillas!


Next, we heard from United Women of East Africa Support Team (UWEAST), who use social entrepreneurship through a catering service called Hayaat — the Arabic word for life — to lift up women and girls to reach their full potential and grow as individuals. Their program provides these women with a support system through shared experiences among the refugee community. UWEAST and Hayaat not only help women economically by employing them in a program where they can share their traditional cuisine, but also socially because they are able to do something meaningful and connect with other women.


Lastly, we heard from Soulmuch, a women-founded company that works to close the gap within our food system by reducing food waste. Co-founders Reyanne Mustafa and Kristian Krugman shared their story of how working in the restaurant industry, and seeing how much rice and other grains went untouched and thrown away each day, inspired them to start their own company that addresses food waste. Soulmuch up-cycles excess grains from restaurants around San Diego into delicious and healthy vegan and gluten-free cookies. They share their stories and cookies at farmers markets, restaurants, and events all across San Diego, and were recently awarded a California state food waste prevention grant to grow their business and make an even larger impact.


Women have always used food as connection, whether to create community, educate on healthy eating, or make social impact, and this was an inspiring and empowering evening of realizing and honoring the social impact women can have through sharing their stories of food.

Women for Social Impact events will resume Fall 2019. Learn more about Women for Social Impact and join us!



Justin Prugh
(619) 260-7573

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies


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