From the Lens of an Intern

The room buzzed with fervent whispers, the inviting scent of fresh arepas wafting as attendees bustled through our Sweet & Salty night market – the lights dimmed as our first storyteller stepped on stage, graciously inviting us into their world. Sharing the challenges and triumphs of their personal journey in the food space, each storyteller brought a different flavor to the evening, creating a feast of stories for us all to indulge in. The level of transparency, honesty, and vulnerability displayed fostered intimacy within a group of strangers -- a transient experience with a depth of influence, these connections were what so many long for amidst the anonymity of modern society.


Real Food Real Stories’ first annual StorySlam was a roaring success, and playing a role in its creation was inspiring. The event boasted 300 attendees, 40+ volunteers, 9 storytellers, and 13 local food businesses -- individuals from all walks of life, from farmers to entrepreneurs, chefs to business owners, bloggers to photographers -- we all gathered, shared, and enjoyed an evening that celebrated the strength in diversity, the potency of mutual support, and the power of sharing our hearts with one another.  The storytellers were raw and real, delivering their messages in a myriad of moving forms – Rebecca King shared a poem reflecting her life as a piece of cheese, Nik Sharma emotionally shared the tribulations of being a person of color in the food world, Erin Gleeson divulged her transition from a vegan Catholic to a pork-loving Jew, and Keba Konte told of how coffee has forged a path of healing in his homeland Senegal.

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The beauty of Real Food Real Stories, an innovative storytelling organization empowering today’s most dedicated and passionate food changemakers, lies in its core mission. Our purpose is to inspire and connect, giving often unrecognized food-folks a platform for sharing their story. We are a community organization promoting human connection, a food systems non-profit humanizing the faces behind our food, and a storytelling group offering probono storytelling coaching as a way to give voice to the voiceless. We address aspects of the entire food chain, reconnecting eaters with those responsible for growing, harvesting, distributing, and cooking our food. We ultimately seek to promote environmental and human health by creating a system of empowered producers and conscious consumers. Together, we work tirelessly day by day toward a regenerative and sustainable food system for the masses, not the few.


RFRS hosts a variety of different events throughout the year, most of which include a delicious meal, a moving story, and an opportunity to mingle with likeminded food-folks. The brave and tenacious storytellers encourage us to stand up, to support our local food movement and play an active role in its evolution. One event may highlight the challenges of being a woman entrepreneur in the beer business, elucidating gender issues in a typically male-dominated industry, while the next may tell the tale of an African-American woman who found the joy of gardening and opened Acta Non Verba, a phenomenal urban farm in Oakland teaching kids how to plant, grow, and harvest food. Another may trace the plight of strawberry farmers in Salinas, the racial challenges of immigration and the difficulties of balancing profit and sustainability. Their stories are salty and they are sweet, a reflection of the delicate balance of food, of life, and of the interconnection between the two. Events are beneficial for all involved – attendees have the opportunity to network, learn about incredible changemakers, and are encouraged to follow up with suggested “action steps” to continue making waves in the food
system. Chefs or restaurants who provide the meal gain publicity and support. Storytellers learn
more about themselves through our founder Peiru’s incredible storytelling coaching, and also share their passion with attendees who may not otherwise know about their cause, company, or
organization.


Joining the RFRS team this fall offered me insight into the joys and challenges of working with a small nonprofit. I was able to hit the ground running as an integral part of our small team, working intimately with our three staff members, Pei-ru, Brie, and Sophia on a variety of projects. From crafting newsletters to managing social media, from assisting with events to helping food prep for supperclubs, from participating in priorities meetings to drafting grants applications, I truly saw the behind the scenes world of RFRS. Working with these powerhouse women was inspiring and encouraging, and I am so grateful for their mentorship and support over this past semester. The experience I gained as an intern was incredible, and the exposure to so many passionate changemakers truly empowered me to continue working in the food world. I am thrilled to watch as the organization grows, expanding its breadth of influence through their recently launched podcast + other exciting events in the works!


Real Food Real Stories is a hidden gem in the foodspace – there’s something about the way Peiru is able to evoke such authentic emotion from people, to coach them gently, to craft a cohesive story from the fabric of their lives. Hearing other people’s stories often inspires you to share your own, and thus begins a chain reaction of restored connectedness across families, communities, and beyond. One of the greatest challenges in our fast-paced, industrialized world is the fact that in pursuit of faster, better, more we have lost our connections to each other. Individualistic to a fault, America is a place of personal striving at the fault of societal improvement – we compete more than we collaborate. And maybe, just maybe, if organizations like RFRS were able to bring people together in a genuine way, perhaps we might realize that, despite political, social, and environmental flux, at the end of the day, there remains far more that unites us than divides us.

-Arianna Maysonave

Improving the food system one bite at a time

Dear RFRS Community Member,

Biting into a Gold Dust peach at the Masumoto Family Farm was nothing short of magical. So we were saddened to learn that this incredibly delicious variety of peach might never see a restaurant plate or a kitchen table, because supermarkets and popular culture had deemed it too small for consumption.

We're "trained to eat with our eyes," explained Nikiko Masumoto, fourth-generation farmer at Masumoto Family Farm, when she reached out to us to find an audience for this undeservingly unpopular fruit. Nikiko, as one of our featured storytellers in 2016, knew that part of our mission is to be a catalyst for improving our local food system.

Listen to Nikiko's Podcast Here

Together, we brought volunteers to help harvest the fruit and reached out to our contacts in the food industry to find homes for over 1,000 lbs of the misfit peaches. This was the very definition of a grassroots movement supporting sustainable agriculture. The Masumoto Family is part of a small group of farms that is doing something very different: growing heirloom varieties that don't have a ready market and harvesting the fruit only if food purchasers can pay to support fair wages for the farm workers. It's the kind of accountability and commitment to quality that exemplifies our vision for the food system.

In the end, we partnered with Airbnb, Google, Kitchentown, Stanford University, and State Bird Provisions to bring the Gold Dust peach to local tables. And for the first time in six years, this beautiful heirloom peach didn't end up in the compost bin, challenging a small but significant part of the produce market paradigm. 

It's local stories like these that inspire us to act. We invite you to join us in improving our food system one bite at a time.

Give Now

Please help us support similar food system actions like this by contributing to our #WeTheEaters year-end fundraising campaign.


With gratitude,
The RFRS Team

View WE THE EATERS Campaign Page

Spice Mama Supperclub Reflection

This reflection comes to us today from our new intern and former volunteer, Natalia Gomez. After volunteering for our first annual StorySlam, she wanted to get more involved. This was her take on her first gathering with us. 

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The Real Food Real Stories’ Supperclub featuring Sylvie, owner and founder of Spice Mama went above and beyond my expectations. This was my second time attending a RFRS event. The first event was Benefit Storyslam Salty and Sweet edition hosted at Airbnb headquarters. The storyslam had roughly 300 attendees, multiple food vendors, and several inspiring storytellers. The supperclub had about 50 attendees, one storyteller, Sylvie, who also impressively cooked the meal for the evening. My first exposure to RFRS was through the large scale event filled with several varieties of food and people, therefore, the intimacy of the supperclub was truly unique and heartwarming.

The evening gathering took place in a lovely apartment in a high rise in SoMa with beautiful views of downtown San Francisco. The open layout of the home brought everyone together in one large room, where the storytelling and food sharing occurred. I arrived an hour before the event began to lend a helping hand. I walked in and found Sylvie working hard in the kitchen. Her dishes had my mouth watering from the second I laid eyes on them. The aroma of her spices mixing in the warm kitchen made me want to take all of her sauces home with me!

There was about an hour of socializing as people arrived to the event and then after we all lined up for dinner. Each guest sat on the floor on small pillows close together. The atmosphere felt unified and people were extremely appreciative of the meal Sylvie put time and work into. After most people were finished, the storytelling began. Sylvie began by thanking everyone and then went into opening up about her family, her health history, and her business. Hearing her speak so vulnerably about her personal experiences truly inspired the entire room. She also did an excellent job at integrating food with specific parts of her story. She reflected on a specific soup that her mom made for her and it’s comforting, simple components. While she described the soup and it’s significance we distributed small cups filled with it to all the guests. This allowed us to all connect with her through listening and tasting. The storytelling finished and then an open discussion began inviting guests to ask Sylvie questions .

Once the storytelling part finished, everyone said their goodbyes and were asked to fill out feedback cards.When they submitted their cards they received one of Sylvie’s amazing cookies in return. I stayed after to help transform the space back into Peiru’s home. This was a neat opportunity to be able to have seen the event from the very start all the way until the end. I was able to hear the immediate thoughts from the hosts and Sylvie herself.

My first Supperclub experience has me already excited for the next. I’m hooked. It was such a special space with new faces sharing food and personal narratives with one another. I felt the same feelings I do when I return home for the holidays with family. RFRS does a phenomenal job at cultivating a warm and welcoming atmosphere at both their large and small scale events. I am new to the RFRS community, but in my limited exposure I have already been fed delicious food, heard moving stories, and been enthralled to continue to get more involved.