I was speaking with James Aikins, Downtown Co-op Kitchen manager today, and he told me something I had no words for. It was the first time in a long time that I was actually speechless. His kitchen goes through about one ton of organic kale every month. That is 2000 pounds of kale working its way through the downtown kitchen and into the bellies of people all over Bellingham.
He had a list of other vegetables too; pounds and pounds of organic vegetables that the downtown deli processes every week, month and year. Soups, entrees, salads, grab n go items, all of them full of thousands of pounds of local, fresh vegetables.
It is one of the ways we are so lucky here. The amount of good healthy food to which we have access is astounding, and during harvest season, much of it comes from local farms.
I have worked in so many places where I knew the food that I was serving was akin to poison. Most of it came frozen in bags, and the extent of cooking that went on in the kitchen was meat on the grill and everything else in the deep fryer. On a rare occasion there might have been steamed vegetables or the odd salad, both of which contained ingredients that were at least two weeks old. It arrived on a truck from who knows where. The steamed vegetables were always prepared in a microwave.
This is one of the huge benefits of working at the co-op. The food we prepare and serve here actually nourishes people. It also supports local farmers. In the simple act of conducting business The Co-op supports its community coming and going. And it is only going to grow as time goes on.
It is in the moments like this, when I can see in sheer numbers how much food the co-op provides for the community that I truly understand how lucky we all are to live in Bellingham and how lucky we are to work at The Co-op.
I can’t help but be grateful. I have the perspective of having been through some ridiculous food service situations, and for all the corners most places cut, and for all the sub-par cooking and handling techniques most places employ, it is astounding to me to be able to work at a place where there are no secrets to keep. On the contrary, I am lucky enough to get to shout this stuff from the rooftops!
Next year, the rooftops are going to see a lot of me. There will be so much happening your heads will spin from the amount of 411 I lay down for you.
Stay tuned. One ton of kale is just the tip of the iceberg.