Chef Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan at Heritage Presbyterian Church kitchen with Chef Veronica Bearce, helper for the night.

Over the year, a special partnership has been growing between Sustainable Solano and Heritage Presbyterian Church, for the sake of creating a Community Food Center in Benicia, a dream that’s been taking shape with inspiration from Sustainable Solano’s Exec Director, Elena Karoulina and local chef Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan, and from the church’s Pastor Yung Me Morris and Heritage Presbyterian Church’s leadership board.

So what would a Benicia Community Food Center be, and be for?

In the evening, April 5th, Sustainable Solano hosted members of Heritage’s congregation for a beautiful, seasonal buffet dinner prepared by chef Stephanie to discuss and celebrate the promise of a mutual venture that would be centered around the church’s as yet under-utilized kitchen. Recently, the church had had upgraded the kitchen, but not quite up to the commercial standard for select uses, such as for a catering business. Seeking funds for the necessary improvements to meet those standards (not for restaurant permitting level), the church and Sustainable Solano will be working toward that basic aim. Meanwhile, hope is afloat for creating an earth-friendly catering service led by local chefs who would prepare meals for “take out” for Benicia residents who don’t have the time, ability or income to cook healthy meals at home. In the future, residents who elect to participate would become subscribers to the program. Such a business arrangement would benefit local small farms and other local/regional suppliers of wild fish, organic meats, eggs and dairy. Becoming a community food “hub”, Heritage Presbyterian would become the delivery and pick up location for CSA (Community Supported Agricultural) boxes, as well as for deliveries of other food supplies (meats, fish, eggs, dairy). With Sustainable Solano’s “Swenson Garden” and Community Orchard located on the church property, it appears that HPC is growing into its new role helping to foster local access and distribution of healthy food within Benicia.

Heritage Presbyterian Church and Sustainable Solano Board members sharing meal and a conversation

Everyone attending the dinner enjoyed the delicious meal and applauded chef Stephanie. Most importantly, good questions were raised with the realization that answers and solutions could be found. Essentially, everyone felt the groundswell of excitement in cooperating to support the pilot plan for an enterprise that would serve people’s nutrition and health and community well-being. The vision was growing as everyone spoke up with ideas, such as connecting with Carquinez Village, St. Paul’s, and CAC. We were seizing the time and season for change—the time for learning and enabling new ways of doing and being together for the good of all life.