Thanks to the enterprising workers at the Cal Poly organic farm, patrons at the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter enjoy more than canned foods donated by the community. Recently, the community supported agriculture program at the organic farm teamed up with the shelter to provide a variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables for shelter users to dine on.

Organic farm manager Cindy Douglas, and Kathleen DeChadenedes, director of the food program through EOC (Equal Opportunity Commission) both recognized the need for fresh produce in homeless shelters around the county.

“The farm has donated over 1,000 pounds in fresh produce to the shelter,” Douglas said. This turns out to be an estimated $1,000 a month in fresh produce, she said.

DeChadenedes, a Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention (SARP) advisory board member, and director of the food program at EOC, helps with annual fundraisers including the umbrella organization where she first met Douglas.

As a member of the SLOW food movement, a non-profit organization dedicated to contributing sustainable and biodiverse food supplies; DeChadenedes dedicates her time in order to keep efforts directed at underprivileged individuals in the community.

“With the rising cost of food, participants at the shelter have declined, providing a challenge to provide wholesome nutritious foods,” DeChadenedes said. “If it weren’t for Cindy Douglas, under served members of the community amight not get a chance to be helped and have meals prepared for them.”

The Maxine Lewis Memorial Homeless Shelter serves dinner to around 130 people starting at 6 p.m. Around 85 people stay at the shelter, the maximum capacity for overnighters.

Shelter Manager Shawn Ison, noticed a higher quality of food that is served every night since the organic farm began donating, creating happier and healthier clientele.

“Very little food was donated to the shelter, and mainly grains and pasta was served for dinners,” Ison said. “Produce is like gold around here, and has been a huge asset to the shelter.”

The food is delivered to a kitchen located in Shell Beach, where Amalia Mahana, who started cooking for the shelter in April 2008, prepares the food.

The main ingredients include bell peppers, butternut squash, tomatoes and broccoli, with a new menu created every nightly. Usually a meat dish, pasta and fresh greens provide nutrition and overall variety, Mahana said.

“The organic farm has been a great help with bringing our cost down and the opportunity to provide fresh vegetables that have usually been served frozen or canned,” Mahana said. “The broccoli grown on the farm has been of very high quality, and some of the best I’ve ever seen.”

Mahana drives to the organic farm to pick up the produce available and chooses the food used most frequently. Bell peppers, butternut squash, tomatoes and broccoli are the main vegetables available for this season, and most desired when preparing the dishes, Mahana said.

“The person that deserves the most credit is Mahana for her efforts in providing a great menu every night for our clientele,” DeChadenedes said. “She’s done a great job working with whatever foods are given to us, and has been extremely flexible about what produce is available.”

The Cal Poly organic farm is located on Mount. Bishop Road across from the compost unit, and students pay $19.95 a month for a box of produce that can be picked up at four different locations. For more information contact the organic farm at (805)-756-6139.

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