When Alexandra Yates was growing up, the fact that children went to bed hungry kept her up at night.
Now, she serves as the program coordinator and full-time instructor for the Food Service Management Program at Orange Coast College (OCC) in Costa Mesa. With her proven commitment to sustainability and track record of working at OCC and in the community to cut down on food waste, Alexandra is making a distinct difference.
When OCC’s campus closed in mid-March, she recognized an immediate need to provide meals for her community. Unable to continue cooking on campus, she made a few phone calls and moved the next day to a kitchen at the Marconi Automotive Museum. Partnering with Waste Not OC, the OC Food Bank, other community partners and various suppliers, she was able to procure the necessary raw materials and tap into the distribution chain.
On a typical day, Alexandra feeds her own family with healthy food from her garden and teaches several classes. Now, she also works with a team of four volunteers to provide healthy meals for several thousand Orange County residents in need. In the first week of the COVID-19 shutdown they made 549 meals. As of mid-May their total production has surpassed 17,000, with distribution to OCC students in need, seniors, K-12, shelters and others. They’ve recently expanded their efforts and have begun weekly pallet distribution of food and fresh produce to communities throughout the county. She’s also secured funding to enable OCC students to become involved in the effort once the campus opens again.
You can initiate change in your world and in your community one small step and one conversation at a time. If something keeps you awake at night during these unprecedented and trying times, start a conversation, call a few people you know. You’ll be surprised at the solutions that come to the table.
And, it doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. Just ask Alexandra, she’ll be the first to tell you it started with a limited number of meals in a small kitchen. She’ll also be the first to tell you she is not doing this alone and that the power of a community, especially a community in crisis, can be a beautiful thing.
(Follow Alexandra and her team’s activities on Instagram @OCC_Food_Recovery)