Free food Fridays at Bolinas park bring residents, college students together

10/09/2019

At Bolinas’s downtown park last Friday, about three dozen residents were welcomed with free food prepared by University of San Francisco students. The event was part of a series put on by a community garden outreach class taught by Bolinas resident and university professor Melinda Stone. On the first Friday of each month through the semester, the class cooks tamales; on the third Friday, they serve casserole and roasted vegetables made in the park’s cob oven. Ms. Stone chose those two meals because they take a variety of ingredients, using up what the students glean from food banks. On weeks when they don’t cook, students tour and help out at local farms. This Friday, they will visit Shao Shan Farm and Paradise Valley Produce. Their home base is Commonweal Garden, where they are undertaking a compost project. “It’s all about connecting students to food,” Ms. Stone said of the class, part of the environmental studies department. Although the tamales last Friday weren’t finished in time for lunch (they used frozen corn), the salad, rice, beans, veggies and pear crisp were a hit. The day before, eight students visited Gospel Flat Farm to process the chicken for the tamales. From slaughter to preparation, the students did it firsthand. The tamales, which took three hours to cook, were frozen for next month’s meal, but the lack of a main course didn’t dampen the mood on a beautiful Friday at the park. Local entertainer Stuart Chapman, who goes by StuArt, put on a little carnival for the event, with cornhole and a face-in-hole picture board. When they weren’t dishing out food, students received their fortune from his “wheel of life” and sang along while he played guitar. The free lunch coincided with a U.S.F. faculty retreat so that professors and staff could tour Star Route Farms, which the university recently purchased for $10.4 million. “We want to connect the farm to the town, and the land to the community,” said Donal Godfrey, the associate director for faculty and staff spirituality (the university is Jesuit). The community garden outreach class, which fulfills students’ service-learning requirement, is a popular one. It is mostly taken by seniors because they have enrollment priority, but Ms. Stone is looking for a way to save seats for freshman because the class can be an eye-opener that encourages students to join the university’s agriculture program. “I feel like there is so much that this community in Bolinas can give to my students,” she said.