Beth Winegarner's news articles

San Francisco Bay Area community news

Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

iPads for School Lunches: SFUSD Woos Applicants with Prizes

leave a comment »

By Beth Winegarner
August 22, 2012

In public schools, there is such a thing as a free lunch. In San Francisco, it might even come with a free iPad.

Roughly 62 percent of local public-school students qualify for meal subsidies, but their parents have to file paperwork to make it happen. When they don’t, the San Francisco Unified School District loses money — $250,000 last year, for example.

Now, school leaders have dreamed up a new way to reel in applicants: prizes. This year, everyone who applies for meal subsidies will also have the chance to win fancy gadgets and memorabilia such as an iPad 2, an iPod Touch, a football signed by 49er Frank Gore, iTunes gift cards, and more.

It’s potentially a cheap fix for an expensive — and labyrinthine — problem. It goes something like this: Kids from a four-person clan that brings home $42,648 per year can eat at school for free. In turn, the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives schools just under $3 per lunch for every student who qualifies. But if a kid doesn’t apply, and then lunches for free, the school eats $3.

Some years, feeding kids who don’t pay for lunch or apply for subsidies has cost the district $1 million, says Dana Woldow, who chaired the district’s nutrition committee for many years. “We discovered this was a problem the first day there was a nutrition committee [in 2002],” she says. Nobody knew what to do about it.

There are a number of reasons eligible families might not sign up. Some undocumented families may fear that filling out the forms might tip off immigration officials. (It won’t). Or, the application may get lost in the tidal wave of paperwork families face when their child enters school, says Woldow.

It’s tough to nail down how many eligible students aren’t registered, since meal applications are the district’s only way of gauging families’ income levels, says district spokeswoman Heidi Anderson. But in San Francisco, where minimum wage is $10.24 an hour, every last clam from the government matters.

Money shortages are covered “out of the general fund, and is money that could be applied toward any number of unmet funding needs — including offering more menu choices to our students,” Anderson says.

SFUSD isn’t the first to try prizes. Baltimore City Schools recently gave away tickets to see Jay-Z,Kanye West, and Disney on Ice to families who filled out free and reduced-price lunch applications, though district spokeswoman Edie House Foster couldn’t say how many more applications they attracted. Locally, the prizes were either donated or obtained at no cost, Anderson says.

So far, it seems to be working: This year, 6,000 families applied before school started, which is unusual, Anderson says. Prizes will be awarded Sept. 1.

This article originally appeared in the SF Weekly.

Written by Beth Winegarner

August 22, 2012 at 11:30 PM

Local leaders to celebrate Year of the Ox

leave a comment »

Beth Winegarner
San Francisco Examiner
January 30, 2009

For David Chiu, coming to San Francisco — with its thriving, thronging Chinese American community and its all-out celebration of the Chinese New Year — was something of a revelation.

The new Board of Supervisors president, representing North Beach and Chinatown, grew up in Boston, where the feasting and festivities of the Lunar New Year were predominantly a quiet family affair. San Francisco’s celebration, with its hundreds of banquets and internationally celebrated parade, was “great, and frankly, a little overwhelming,” Chiu said.

This week, San Francisco’s Chinese-­American community ushered in the Year of the Ox the same way as past generations: with multi-course meals replete with whole chickens and fish, and noodles for long life. Children will receive much-beloved red envelopes stuffed with coins, and families will perform a ritual of cleaning of the household and lighting a few firecrackers to start the new year with a bang.

The celebration began Monday, the official dawning of the Year of the Ox.

Then, on Feb. 7, some 500,000 people are expect to flock to Chinatown for San Francisco’s annual New Year’s parade, featuring more than 100 floats led by a new, 228-foot-long golden dragon, according to parade director Karen Eng. Most of the holiday traditions hinge on bringing long life and good luck to revelers.

In 2008, the Year of the Rat, couples rushed to get married or have children because the rat is the first sign of the Chinese zodiac, bringing with it the extra luck of a new cycle beginning. The ox, second in the zodiac, carries less significance — but the turning of the year is still a time of tradition.

“Everybody gets new haircuts before New Year’s Day because if you wait, it’s like cutting away your fortune,” Eng said. “Your house has to be cleaned beforehand, otherwise you’re sweeping away your fortune.”

During the Lunar New Year, the color red is everywhere, from paper lanterns to clothing, a suggestion of luck and vitality, according to Judy Hu, spokeswoman for the Chinese Historical Society. Citrus fruits also bring luck because they’re reddish in color.

“My daughter and I eat lots of oranges and tangerines to bring good luck,” said Supervisor Eric Mar, who represents the Richmond district.

Like many in San Francisco’s Chinese community, Mar’s favorite memories of the New Year hinge on food.

“I can still remember the New Year smells of my grandmother’s house,” Mar said. “Even though San Francisco has a fantastic range of Chinese restaurants, my grandmother’s home cooking, especially on Chinese New Year, will always be my favorite.”

Sunset district Supervisor Carmen Chu celebrates the holiday each year with her family, gathering around a spread of candy, fruit and flowers. Getting the whole Chu clan together — especially extended family — is especially meaningful, she said.

“It’s a true community affair,” said Chiu, who — thanks to his new place at the top of the Board of Supervisors — has been asked to attend dozens of New Year’s banquets this month. “I’ve had many wonderful New Year’s dinners with mixed-race groups — it’s a great way for community-building between Chinese and non-Chinese folks.”

This story originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

January 30, 2009 at 6:48 AM

Taco truck fighting police ouster

leave a comment »

by Beth Winegarner
Staff Writer
December 17, 2008

A taco truck at the center of a gustatory debate is fighting to remain in its longtime location next to John O’Connell High School, despite a law approved last year making such juxtapositions illegal.

Police revoked El Tonayense’s permit to operate the truck, located on Harrison Street near 19th Street, in September, but owner Benjamin Santana is appealing the decision, saying his establishment should be grandfathered in because it’s been there longer than the school has. That revocation is suspended, pending Santana’s appeal hearing, scheduled for Feb. 4, according to a report from SFPD Cmdr. Sylvia Harper.

The Board of Supervisors passed new rules March 20, 2007, banning all mobile food vendors from setting up shop within 1500 feet of public schools. In July of this year, police contacted vendors and found only three violating the rules; two agreed to move, but Santana dug in his heels, according to Harper.

Although O’Connell allows many of its seniors to go off-campus for lunch, more teachers than students nosh at El Tonayense, according to Assistant Principal Rick Duber.

“I’m often in the yard by the truck, and very few kids eat there,” Duber said. “It’s kind of expensive for the kids.”

However, some nutrition advocates say O’Connell students frequent the truck at lunchtime, loading up on high-calorie burritos and bringing back food for their classmates. One regular, Robert Bell, said kids pass him dollar bills through the fence to buy Cokes for them.

“If this truck is getting none of its business from O’Connell, why is the owner so reluctant to move?” said Dana Woldow, chair of the nutrition committee for the San Francisco Unified School District.

Police identified an alternate location for the El Tonayense truck around the corner at 2300 Harrison Street, according to Sgt. Wilfred Williams. Santana opposed the move on the grounds that he was operating at his current site before O’Connell moved to the neighborhood eight years ago, according to a report from SFPD Capt. Thomas O’Neill.

Santana could not be reached for comment.

Woldow challenged the nutritional value of the food, arguing that O’Connell has some of the worst scores on California physical-fitness tests – just 22 percent of ninth graders met all six fitness criteria on the 2007-08 test. But Duber said the food’s not that bad.

“Most of it’s actually very healthy,” Duber said. “Much more so than McDonald’s or KFC.”

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

December 17, 2008 at 5:23 PM

Burger joint to open Menlo Park location

leave a comment »

Beth Winegarner
San Francisco Examiner
March 8, 2007

Jeffrey’s Hamburgers, the popular burger joint that has held steady while San Mateo’s downtown came to life, is now opening a second diner in Menlo Park on El Camino Real at a time when city leaders hope to boost downtown activity.

After 10 years of feeding San Mateo locals, owner Serge Karanov plans to open the new Jeffrey’s at 888 El Camino, just south of Santa Cruz Avenue, in three months.

That came as good news to fans who crowded into the red-and-chrome diner Sunday afternoon for heaping platters of fries, salads and fresh-grilled burgers.

“The food’s always good, and very consistent,” said San Mateo native Greg Roth, who has eaten at Jeffrey’s about once a week for the last eight years. “They serve my kind of food.”

Karanov bought the restaurant at the corner of First and B streets in San Mateo nearly 10 years ago. Jeffrey’s was named for the son of the original owner, who went on to run George’s Burgers in Walnut Creek.

Since then, downtown San Mateo has undergone radical changes, with the addition of a movie theater and new shops that draw hungry shoppers into the city.

Jeffrey’s grinds its chuck fresh every morning and makes everything in-house, a standard that has won its food numerous awards from local newspapers and the American Automobile Association, which named it one of the best hamburger restaurants on the West Coast.

“The only secret is a good day of honest work,” Karanov said. “It’s not hard to make a good hamburger. The only trick is making it all yourself.”

Before purchasing the Menlo Park site — once home to Henry’s Prime — Karanov investigated a number of storefronts in Redwood City, but said he had his doubts about the success of that city’s downtown.

Now, he’s hard at work designing the new site to make it look like a classic diner.

This story originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

March 8, 2007 at 6:43 AM

Nutritional guidelines icing out bakesales

leave a comment »

Beth Winegarner
Examiner Staff Writer
January 8, 2007

Bake sales were once the quintessential way to raise money for school activities. Now, thanks to new federal “wellness policies,” they may be going the way of the dodo.

Those policies require all schools in America to restrict students’ access to unhealthy foods during the school day. Those rules take effect this fall, along with two California laws effective July 1 that require schools to phase out sodas and fattening snacks over the next two years.

One unanticipated side effect is that such policies could spell the death of that time-honored tradition in which parents whip up a batch of cookies or brownies to raise money for their child’s next field trip.

“It has already started,” said Diane Go, president of the parent-teacher association for the Jefferson elementary and high schools in Daly City.

In the San Francisco Unified School District, officials and parents reached a compromise that allows schools to run 10 evening bake sales each year at events like back-to-school nights, where parents are more likely to supervise their children’s purchases, according to Dana Woldow, chairwoman of the San Francisco School District Student Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee. Baked snacks will no longer be sold in San Francisco’s schools during the school day.

“We found that kids were saving their lunch money and using it to buy cookies and brownies, and not telling their parents,” Woldow said.

Many high schools, including those in the Sequoia High School District, raise money for student activities by selling donuts and sweets from the student store. The district has not yet started implementing the new nutrition policies, and it’s unclear how much money in sales will be lost when the changeover happens, according to Kathy Soulard, treasurer for student fundraising at Woodside High School.

“Our students will sell $1,000 worth of candy, the Polynesian club sells candy leis, and a couple of times a year we do an all-school picnic with ethnic food sales,” Soulard said. “The policy is going to have a major impact.”

But with the new regulations, schools are already beginning to turn to other fundraising options, from “walk-a-thons” and “math-a-thons” to sales of stickers and toys. The loss of bake sales should not be mourned, according to Woldow.

This article originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

January 8, 2007 at 11:05 PM

Brew Fest to bubble up for first time at Expo Center

leave a comment »

Beth Winegarner
San Francisco Examiner
June 4, 2006

It’s frosty. It’s bubbly. And it’s coming to the Peninsula.

The San Mateo County Expo Center will host its first-ever event devoted to beer, the Bay Area Brew Fest, this weekend. One of a handful of such events around the Bay Area, the festival will tickle the taste buds of thirsty brew-hounds looking for another way to enjoy beers made locally and around the world.

More than 60 breweries have signed on to participate, including San Francisco’s Speakeasy and Beach Chalet, local favorites such as New Belgium and Rogue, and Peninsula and coastal brewpubs, including Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, Santa Cruz’s Seabright and Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, according to Geoff Hinds, fairs and festivals manager for the Expo Center.

Founded six years ago, the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company has made a name for itself by going to events like the Bay Area Brew Fest, according to marketing manager Wayne Meyer.

“Anytime we can reach out to the local marketplace and get them to taste our beverages, it’s good,” Meyer said. Doing that is especially important while Devil’s Slide is closed for repairs, he said, because it raises awareness for one of the brewery’s personal campaigns: the Devil’s Slide tunnel. The brewery created two beers in honor of the Devil’s Slide project: Tunnel Vision, which has since sold out, and CalTrans Brown. “It moves slowly,” Meyer explained.

The brewing company will bring a handful of its beers to the festival, including the crowd-pleasing Maverick’s amber ale.

In addition to the brews, the event will offer barbecue and other food, a NASCAR race simulator and live music. And yes, patrons will be allowed to drive the cars after they’ve been tippling.

“We would prefer they simulate driving rather than actually drive,” Hinds said. “It’s a way for them to race their friends and figure out how reduced their reaction times are.”

Local music acts It’s a Whale, Ride the Blinds, Diamond Late and INQ will perform throughout the day — and probably do their fair share of tasting, according to INQ drummer and San Francisco resident Cole Berggren.

“I plan on visiting the Anderson Valley booth and asking them why they discontinued their hefeweizen,” Berggren said. “I cut my teeth on that beer.”

The Bay Area Brew Fest takes place Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. at the San Mateo County Event Center, 2495 Delaware St., San Mateo. The entrance fee — $20 in advance, $25 at the door — includes a tasting glass and 15 tasting tickets, although more can be purchased separately. For more information, call (650) 574-3247.

This story originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.

Written by Beth Winegarner

June 4, 2006 at 6:46 AM