Lunch at the Soul Food Project


A Rex grant in 2008 helped Nextcourse plan a collaborative support network for women leaving jail, empowering this community of women to nurture and heal themselves through healthy eating and active lifestyles.  This planning effort resulted in the Soul Food Project. Rex executive director Sandy Sohcot recently had the opportunity to see the program in action–and participate as well. She files this report.


Niyati Desai, on left, with Jordan of the Zen Center and the Soul Food Project Coordinators. Desai created recipes for the feast we enjoyed.

Niyati Desai, on left, with Jordan Thorn of the Zen Center and the Soul Food Project Coordinators.

On Thursday, March 18, I had the pleasure of being part of the lunch session of Soul Food, a project of  Nextcourse that meets each Thursday at the Women’s Reentry Center of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department.

 On this day, Jordan Thorn, a guest chef from the San Francisco Zen Center provided the meal recipes and guided the food preparation and cooking.  Niyati Desai, the Soul Food Project Coordinator, began the session with all of us declaring our favorite vegetables, then followed with a review of cabbage and ginger, two of the main ingredients of the meal we were about to prepare, and how these ingredients provided nutrients and health.  There were some excellent questions about good calories and bad calories, good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates, and why it was good to try tofu.

For the two hours, we were all a team, collaborating to prepare and cook the food, and then sit together to enjoy the delicious results.  Over lunch, one of the women who regularly attends the project classes told me about how she has completely changed what she buys and cooks for her family meals and knows this has made a big difference.  She said she is still dealing with resisting tempting snacks and desserts, and we commiserated about this ongoing, universal challenge.


Jordan of the Zen Center with Nextcourse director Susie White.

Jordan of the Zen Center with Nextcourse director Susie White.

As I was leaving, I was introduced to the coordinator of the Women’s Reentry Center, who thanked me profusely for supporting Nextcourse.  She said that Nextcourse’s work has had profound positive impacts on the women who come through the Center, helping achieve the Center’s goals of giving the women the support, tools and knowledge to live constructive, productive lives.

The thanks went to me as one face of the Rex Foundation, but I want to cast a wide arc of thanks to the entire community of Rex Foundation supporters who make grants like those to NextCourse possible, thereby giving NextCourse the support it needs to carry out its essential work to improve the health of individuals and communities through collaborative programs that inspire people to purchase, cook and eat locally produced foods.  This is “feeding the circle” in action.