OMSI Shares Ingenious Gingerbread Houses

OMSI Shares Ingenious Gingerbread Houses

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry is a key landmark in Portland, Oregon and an exciting opportunity for people of all ages. This winter is no different as OMSI opens up an exhibit specifically to celebrate the Holiday Season.

Portland architects and bakers coordinated to produce the event. It will be part of OMSI’s latest exhibit, entitled “Illusion: Nothing Is As It Seems”. It just recently opened and will run through January 1st.

According to an article in The Oregonian, all of the gingerbread houses are made up of 80% edible material and have a wide variety of themes, which include merry-go-rounds, skyscrapers, and landscapes.

View more photos of the exhibit on The Oregonian and visit the actual exhibit this winter!

Food Network Chef Serves Fellow California Wildfire Victims

Food Network Chef Serves Fellow California Wildfire Victims

The smell of burning timber woke Guy Fieri in his Santa Rosa, California home earlier this month. “The smoke was really bad,” the Food Network chef told local radio station KQED. “We had to evacuate at two in the morning, and we grabbed what we could, taking pictures off the wall as fast as we could. Jumped in the truck, loaded in the dogs, and away we went.”

While Fieri’s home escaped the wildfires unscathed, other Santa Rosa residents were less fortunate. So, Fieri decided to help them in the way he knew best: by preparing and serving delicious meals. The chef and his staff cooked barbecue chicken, coleslaw and bean salad in a mobile wood-fired oven and smoker, which they parked outside of town. Nearly 4,000 evacuees and volunteers lined up to sample Fieri’s cuisine on the first day.

Fieri plans to continue operating his mobile kitchen, so he can keep serving 5,000 meals daily to fellow victims and personnel. A fundraiser in partnership with the Salvation Army is financing his efforts. To donate, click here.

Innovative Restaurant Model Serves up Affordable Dining Experience for the Needy

Innovative Restaurant Model Serves up Affordable Dining Experience for the Needy

A motivated quintet of local community advocates and business owners plans to offer Willamette Valley residents a new dining experience. The group intends to open a for-profit restaurant, dubbed “Food for Thought Cafe and Infoshop,” in downtown Salem. There, diners will be able to sample locally-sourced, multi-cultural cuisine–but at a fraction of the price other restaurants might charge.

What will guarantee the restaurant’s affordable offerings? A pay-what-you-want business model which allows customers to pay according to their financial means.

Michele Darr, a board member of Food for Thought Cafe, isn’t worried about maintaining a steady revenue stream. “We believe we have a bullet-proof business and sustainment plan,” she told Helen Caswell of Salem Weekly. Darr’s fellow board member, Amanda Hinman, points to Panera Bread Company’s successful pay-what-you-want experiment in Dearborn, Michigan: the project “helped Panera build a long-term strategy devoted to maintaining a loyal return customer base and is serving as a roadmap for others,” Hinman explained.

Jessica Parks directs a pay-what-you-want cafe in Kirskville, Missouri. Parks admits that obtaining financial support from donors constitutes a major challenge for the business: “People were very skeptical at first.” But, she continued, “once they come, taste our food and see it in action they keep coming back.” About 9 in 10 customers at Parks’ restaurant pay the suggested amount for their meals.

For Darr, the pay-what-you-want model is about giving the needy access to an experience which they otherwise would not be able to afford. “Giving low-income people the chance to eat a nutritious sit-down meal somewhere other than a soup kitchen helps [all people] remember that we aren’t strangers, or forgotten citizens . . . we are neighbors,” she said. Darr and her colleagues hope to offer classes and study spaces at their restaurant in addition to tasty cuisine. Ultimately, they aim to create a vibrant community atmosphere which will uplift the needy and transform the way society currently views food assistance.

Darr and her fellow board members welcome donations for Food for Thought Cafe at their GoFundMe page.

Local Non-profit Donates Unused Food to Needy

Local Non-profit Donates Unused Food to Needy

Salem Harvest, a local non-profit, has a plan to reduce food waste and help the hungry. The organization “connects farmers and backyard growers with volunteer pickers” who gather produce which would otherwise go unused, writes Tom Hoisington of Salem Weekly. Salem Harvest then distributes the food free of charge to low-income families, the unemployed, the elderly, and other needy individuals.

According to Hoisington, the organization has collected over one million pounds of fruits and vegetables for the Marion-Polk Food Share and other local food banks since 2010, and boasts 2,600 volunteers. Thus, Salem Harvest is well-equipped to meet Oregon’s exceptional needs: more children, as a percentage of the population, experience hunger here than in any other state.

Salem Harvest benefits not only those who receive produce, but also those who give their time to harvest it. “Harvests offer an opportunity for families to work together in the outdoors, meet local farmers, and gain a better understanding of where food comes from,” explains Hoisington. To learn about opportunities to volunteer for Salem Harvest, visit the organization’s website at www.salemharvest.org.

Refugee mother uses traditional Syrian cookie recipe to start new business

Refugee mother uses traditional Syrian cookie recipe to start new business

One refugee family is making things sweet down in Georgia. Ruwaida G, her husband Khaled, and their daughter Zainab and their son Mohamad fled Syria in 2012. They applied for asylum in Jordan and arrived in the U.S. in 2016, with assistance from New American Pathways and Holy Trinity Parish, both of which teamed up to help the family. The family has asked that their last name be kept private so as not to endanger their relatives in Syria.

“We decided to leave Syria because we feared for our lives and for our children’s lives,” Ruwaida said. “There was no safety in Syria wherever we went, and we needed to leave if we wanted to survive.”

After passing the rigorous U.S. vetting processes for immigrants, the family settled in the Atlanta area. Amanda Avutu, who also lives in that area, met Ruwaida and her family after seeing an online post asking for volunteers to help set up the family’s new apartment.

“As I started visiting with the family and getting to know them more, we would go to their house and they would make us coffee and she start serving us cookies. We were going there focused on helping her husband find a job, but then found that she was literally serving us up an opportunity,” Avutu said.

Ruwaida carried a wooden cookie mold with her to the United States, which is used to make traditional Syrian cookies.  The cookies are made with a 10-step process and Ruwaida hand molds hers. Avutu and her friends asked Ruwaida about selling her cookies for a profit. Ruwaida was skeptical but gave it a try, baking 45 dozen to sell at a music festival.

“She sold out before the first band played,” Avutu said. Soon after, Ruwaida, her husband, and a group of five friends created Sweet, Sweet Syria, a cookie business that Ruwaida hopes to grow into a successful family enterprise.

“I learned how to make these traditional Syrian cookies from my mother, who learned it from her mother, and so on,” said Ruwaida. “It is a family recipe. I learned how to make them when I was 14 years old and I have been making them ever since.”

Ruwaida, with the help of Avutu, has taken a business accelerator course and signed a lease on a commercial kitchen. She hopes to make cookies to sell at local coffee shops, restaurants and specialty grocery stores. Sweet, Sweet Syria will also expand into online orders soon and, in the future, to offer other Syrian foods as well.

Ruwaida’s husband, Khaled, a former electrician, works as an assistant chef.

“They’re very much partners in this business,” Avutu said. “She was a homemaker previously…and he’s been immensely supportive of her having this opportunity to work. Previously, they hadn’t really thought about that.”

Avutu and Ruwaida’s other friends have started a GoFundMe account to raise the money for her first year of rent on the commercial kitchen and to eventually help the couple open their own store, where people new to the U.S. and long-time citizens can gather. The crowd funding page has raised more than $20,000 of the $30,000 goal.

Ruwaida says she’s happy every time someone enjoys her cookies and the recipe that’s been handed down for generations.

“I am lucky to have a group of dear friends…I couldn’t have made it without them,” she said. “I hope that people who read (my story) see that we had a life before, and because of war we were forced to leave and rebuild our lives in a new country. I want them to know that we are thankful for the generosity of people and their willingness to see us and treat us as fellow human beings.”