On Tuesday, July 16, 2013, the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) got a fantastic tour of Bi-Rite Market lead by Shakirah Simley. Shakirah is the communications/outreach person at Bi-Rite and has recently joined the CommunityGrows Advisory Board. We were thrilled to have her lead the tour and the BEETS learned a TON of information about ORGANIC, among other healthy issues.
We began in the front of the 18th Street Bi-Rite store where Shakirah told us about starting the store and how the neighborhood was when it began. “From the time it opened in 1940, Bi-Rite Market has been a Mission District institution. The Mogannam family has owned the market since 1964, with brothers Ned and Jack operating it for the first 26 years. Back then it was the sort of market where neighborhood housewives could do all their daily shopping and police officers stopped by on their daily beats. Ned’s sons Sam and Raph spent their childhood stocking the grocery shelves after school and on weekends, never dreaming of owning the store one day.” Sam and Raph took over the store from their father and uncle in 1997 bringing restaurant experience to the mix and treating the customers and suppliers like family. Today the market has a full kitchen, great produce, meats, cheeses, wines, seafood, and restaurant-quality food available for take-out. They also just opened a new store on 550 Divisadero Street, spreading the love and expanding the communities. Bi-Rite also operates their own organic farms in Sonoma, Placerville, and San Francisco.
Bi-Rite is a store that is loaded with all sorts of good stuff to eat and buy. Bi-Rite has top-notch quality foods from farmers and ranchers they’ve cultivated for years whose offerings are always fresh and right in season. The BEETS learned about Fair Trade, Heirloom produce, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Bi-Rite staff, like Chili Montes, head butcher, know where their food comes from and love to engage customers about their suppliers.
The BEETS learned from Chili about sustainable fishing, dairy farms and products, eggs from happy chickens, and what a side of a pig looks like. They even got to see a whole salmon caught that day and hold tiger shrimps in their hands!
The tour was chock full of “candy for the eye.” It was like being in a toy store for foodies! Back outside, our group, including CommunityGrows staff Adrian Almquist and Nora Brereton (and family!) walked across the street to enjoy a scoop of salted caramel ice cream and talk more about the importance of eating healthy, and recycling.
Then we entered the 18 Reasons community education center, a community arts and food space. Food classes happen there all the time. The 18 Reasons motto is to “Learn. Think. Do.” It is a place that brings people together to deepen a relationship to food and each other. At a dinner with a local farmer, a hands-on workshop, an art exhibition, or a family food swap, 18 Reasons builds community through interaction with the people and ideas that feed us. Offering this thought provoking, fun programming, Bi-Rite inspires action and fosters collaboration towards creating a just and sustainable food system.
We sat around the table in the 18 Reasons Room and asked Shakirah about what it takes to work at Bi-Rite, and why the food costs so much. There was a lengthy conversation about both topics. The interesting discussion on how organic food can become more accessible to low-income families will be an on-going conversation. It left everyone dreaming of the day when good food is not only deserved by all, but accessible to all.