I met Diane Mina last fall as she poured generous amounts of Bloody Marys at a 49er Tailgate party held at Levi Stadium. Let’s face it, when someone hands you a bloody Mary–the likes of which you have never tasted before–you’re going to have a spirited connection right from the start.
Diane Mina’s from-scratch, raw and magical tomato cocktail is intensely flavorful without any added sugars or salt.
I discovered that the fresh and unique combination of flavors my mouth was cheering about was hand crafted by this happily married, pretty, outgoing, smart, great wife and mom—yes, the kind we love to hate but love instantly anyway. Diane Mina, Bloody Mary enthusiast and founder of Bella Mina Gardens.
Then it struck me. Mina, as in Michael Mina, the two time Michelin Star award-winning chef, Mina? Yes, Diane Mina, wife of chef and restaurateur Michael Mina, or as she calls him “my cheffie” has scored a touchdown with her brand of a tasty tradition she and Michael began 25 years ago.
Mountain View College is making great inroads in the sustainability and slow foods movement in an area known for fast food joints. (Photo courtesy Mountain View College)
There was a time in 1980s San Francisco, when a reporter could let an apartment from a woman out in the Sunset District and be surprised that there was a garden out back, a patch of land sprouting carrots, lettuce, beets, and luscious tomatoes.
Today, gardens are everywhere seemingly, even as water shortages, zero lots and high-density housing curtail gardening plans. Communities are filling in the gaps, though, and shared gardens are blossoming.
Whether one talks to a university garden manager in Dallas, an urban gardener in New Haven, or a 79-year-old community garden coordinator in New Hampshire, one thing’s clear: the shared garden movement has grown beyond just ‘tree-huggers’ and into the community at large. Kitchen gardens preceded the modern supermarket, and now we’re turning back the clock to reap greater health benefits and social nourishment.
Sam Polk (center), founder of Groceryships, left a lucrative trading career on Wall Street to launch a nonprofit that helps families eat better.
(Banner photo by Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times; reprinted with permission)
In the last few years public figures and reporters have publicized attempts to eat decently on the amount of money received from a typical SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotment, which is about $4.30 per day. The stories vary widely in terms of lessons learned, strategies developed and unexpected hardships endured. Still, thriving or even surviving on food stamps is not a game to the nearly 46 million who depend on SNAP for their daily meals.
Sam Polk didn’t go this route. Instead the former Wall Street hedge fund trader entered the daunting world of public nutrition with a whole new premise — supplement the food budget with both cash and education. His two-year-old nonprofit, Groceryships, provides weekly $40 gift cards at Food 4 Less to struggling parents (mostly moms) for six months. Accompanying the cash are regular classes teaching nutrition, cooking and general healthy living concepts that are realistic and attainable to families who struggle to make ends meet.
The first group gathered in South L.A. every Wednesday night for six months. It was hard going at first–everyone felt awkward and a little suspicious about it all (free gift cards? what’s the catch?)–but by the third meeting as participant Helen Langley put it, “I took a breath and opened up. I don’t have a safe place … we made this a safe place.” At an emotional graduation, the women agreed that improving their families’ diets was a triumph beyond measure, attributable as much to the social connections formed as it was to the extra money.