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Food Fest goes virtual over three weekends – Times-Herald

Hosting the six-hour Vallejo Food Festival in person is one thing. People come and go. Food is prepared and sampled. Folks are smiling. Kids are happy.

But online during the COVID-19 crisis? In a world where people tend to have the attention spend of a sleep-deprived squirrel?

So instead of one one fell swoop, the fifth annual Vallejo Food Festival will feed the online masses during a three-Saturday span starting this week, running live noon to 2 p.m. each segment and available on YouTube after that.

“I’m excited,” said Erika Jordan, the event host and community organization for the sponsoring Food Empowerment Project.

A 2010 Jesse Bethel High School graduate, Jordan said it has “absolutely” been an adjustment transitioning to a virtual event.

“It’s taken three times the planning,” she said by phone Monday. “There’s the Zoom technical aspect of it. And this year, we’re having everything captioned for those who are hearing impaired. And we’re having everything translated into Spanish as well.”

The event, normally at a Vallejo community center, attracts from 350 to 700 people. It’s now available globally for free, Jordan said.

Three main chefs will share their talents in the virtual food fest — vegan Mexican fare with Chef Evangelina, vegan Filipino food with Vegan Cooking Mom, and vegan soul food with Chef Chew.

Also, using food as medicine will be presented with a live question-and-answer session with Dr. Melissa Mondala.

Running the festival over three weekends “was my genius idea,” laughed Jordan. “I thought about in terms of … we are home for the most part looking for different ways to engage each other. Since it’s normally a six-hour event, we decided to keep all six hours of our programs. Instead of trying to force people to sit for six hours at once … or sit for two three-hour dates, we’ll do the three Saturdays.”

It was decided to continue the event — COVID or no COVID — back in April, said Jordan.

“We really wanted to be able to celebrate the community,” she said. “We want to showcase the city’s beauty and diversity as well as engage folks in learning more about vegan and plant-based eating on a much larger scale.”

Though challenged to maintain a healthy vegan diet when the pandemic began because some foods were sparse, Jordan said she’s been able to eat right and exercise for the most part.

“For me, it’s been quite easy,” she said. “When the pandemic first hit, a lot of the items disappeared from the shelves. But nothing has really changed for me. I think it is important to support our vendors and restaurants that are still serving us during this time.”

The Vallejo Food Festival is a way “to show folks ways they can share their culture with plant-based foods as well as working in the community to really help others. There are barriers in accessing healthy food in Vallejo and we’re doing more work to find solutions.”

Jordan spends most of her time at home in Berkeley, but still visits her parents frequently in Vallejo.

“I grew up in the house my mom grew up in,” she said.

Jordan said she’s thrilled to host the event live, though unsure how many will register for the free event — with the first 16 each Saturday getting a free cookbook and recipe packet.

“As long as it impacts one person, I’m a happy camper,” she said.

For more information and to register for the Vallejo Food Festival, visit foodispower.org/event/vallejo-healthy-food-fest-2020/