Valley Girls Foodstuffs’ mission is two-fold: to teach at risk youth cooking and business skills and to teach those skills using surplus produce acquired from local markets and farms.
We handcraft small batch foodstuffs that are sold to create revenue to employ the at risk youth who make our products. While employed at Valley Girls Foodstuffs, our employees learn proficiency in cooking, how to run a small business, and the issues surrounding our food system (specifically food waste and food adulteration).
We are guided by the belief that it is important to be a business with social purpose, teaching kids and young adults cooking and business skills so they take pride in creating and selling quality foodstuffs that preserve old school tastiness. We also believe that as a business, it is our responsibility to be a steward of the resources we use.
As a company, we believe it is necessary to create a strong and healthy community by investing in its future. "Investment" is a word with many meanings. Often we think of investing in terms of units of money or time, both of which are quite important. There's another sort of investment we can make, and that is one of knowledge. At Valley Girls, we realized in our community volunteer work with teens that many of them had never cooked though many came from homes where their mothers or grandmothers often cooked meals. What was interesting was how little of that cultural information was being passed on to the next generation. And it is a habit that crosses socio-economic boundaries - kids from all walks of life and all kinds of families are not learning some of the basic skills that heretofore we have associated with the sorts of activities inherent in family life.
As cooking is our passion, it became the area on which we focused to teach kids and young adults. And while we have to teach kitchen safety over and over again ("When you cut with a sharp knife, do not hold the apple. The point of the knife can go straight through your hand."), the fact is that watching these kids learn and use the skills they learn to create food that people enjoy is a wonderfully satisfying. Cooking seems to attract girls rather than boys. So we've focused on helping the girls who work with us to learn trade skills that are specifically hands on, and also some soft skills, like learning to communicate without always using slang or profanity. Or what "work appropriate attire" is. Or how to think through problems without resorting to frustration or anger as a default. Or how to think about yourself in terms of your skills and gifts rather than the clothes you wear or if such-and-such a guy likes you.
Part of our community outreach also includes giving to the non-profits with whom we partner. The employees of Valley Girls Foodstuffs work various projects or fundraisers for the non-profits. Employees are often employer-compensated for the time they spend helping these organizations; however, they also volunteer their time as well. It's a philosophy at Valley Girls to give back.
In addition to our volunteer work, 10% of sales go into our community fund that is ear-marked specifically for those non-profits we partner with that are dedicated to the educational and career advancement of Sonoma Valley youth and young adults.
Local and Sustainable
Valley Girls Foodstuffs was founded with the core principles of keeping things as local and as sustainable as possible. We like the town where we live. We like its personality and its quirkiness. One of the ways that we can keep Sonoma a place with its own personality and quirks is by supporting local businesses who are part of the landscape of our town: the farmers, the bakers, the book store owners, the restauranteurs, the art stores owners, the framers, the auto mechanics, the graphic designers, the insurance agents, the boot camp instructors. We want to create jobs for local kids. We want local adults to meet these kids and realize what an amazing future is at work in their own town. And being a "localist" often means our environmental footprint can be smaller and less visible because it takes less energy to get to the store if you drive. Better yet, you can walk or ride your bike!
While we use solar energy to dry our aprons when we wash them (i.e. a clothesline), our bigger part in sustainability is the amount of waste we help to divert from the waste-stream. In 2012, we estimated we had diverted 37,000 pounds of food from landfills by helping to distribute donated food from local markets and giving it to local non-profits. Edible food that was too much for the organizations to use directly was then distributed to families in need within the local community who are affiliated with programs of those non-profits. And lastly, food that could not be used by the non-profits nor by families (usually because it was a little too bruised or entirely too abundant), was then used by Valley Girls Foodstuffs to make food products (that you can read about on our products page). Food that was definitely not edible (like moldy strawberries, smashed bananas, or slimy cucumbers) was used to feed our worm bins or compost bins. In 2012, we estimated that the food we diverted from landfills was distributed as follows:
- 75% went to non-profits or families (27,750 pounds)
- 20% went into creating foodstuffs at Valley Girls (7,400 pounds)
- 4% went into making compost, including paper or cardboard (1,480 pounds)
- 1% went into recycling from packaging that food came in like waxed cardboard, plastic, or glass (370 pounds)
In 2013, the food we have diverted has more than doubled, with more of it going to non-profits or families (closer to 85% in 2013). We remain completely stunned at the amount of waste our small town produces, and cannot imagine how exponentially these numbers must necessarily increase as town or city size increases. We recommend you read the National Resources Defense Council issue paper on food waste here.