Reflections on Food Education: Sustainability + Health

Victoria Levinsohn co-founded CAVI Kitchen with friend Caroline King as a way of addressing intersecting needs and interests around food waste, health, and education. She hosted the Scott Center and fourteen seventh and eighth graders at the coffee shop she manages in Malibu during the California Road Trip: Food, Farms, and Fashion Reach Beyond Week trip in April 2022, and also taught two weeks of Hillbrook Camp in collaboration with the Center this summer. In this interview, she reflects on food disparity, local food sourcing, educating around health and sustainability, and more.

  1. What are the issues around food justice and sustainability that matter most to you? 

There are so many food justice issues to dive into, but the biggest one for me is about the gap between food waste and food insecurity. In the United States alone, about 108 billion pounds of perfectly good food is wasted every year, while there’s also upwards of 38 million people experiencing food insecurity. The numbers alone are absurd, and it seems ridiculous that we can’t figure out how to stop throwing food away and instead use it, or make sure it gets eaten by people who need it most. Not only is food waste reduction an initiative vital to feeding more hungry people, it is also one of the simplest ways to make a huge impact on climate change, seeing as food waste is responsible for 8-10% of global greenhouse gasses. So, fighting food waste is inherently a combination of fighting for greater food justice and environmental sustainability at the same time. 

  1. Tell us about how your background and how it is connected to your entrepreneurial endeavors to launch CAVI? 

During my time in undergrad at Pepperdine University, I was very involved with our Food Recovery Network as the Education and Marketing Coordinator, and my campus job was Sustainability Team Leader for the Pepperdine Volunteer Center. Through these positions, I really developed my passion for sustainability, health, food waste reduction, etc. Then during the first major COVID quarantine, Caroline and I were living together in Malibu and launched CAVI Kitchen as just an Instagram page where we shared the vegan meals we were cooking every day. From there, we kept going further and developed first a farm fresh meal kit delivery system using all of our own recipes, later implementing pre-made products to deliver to people, and finally getting more involved in education. We really want to keep using CAVI as an opportunity to not only get healthy, sustainably sourced food to people but simultaneously educate them about the importance of local sourcing and investing in sustainability for the health of our bodies and our planet. 

  1. Tell us about how you designed the two weeks of Scott Center summer camps. What were some highlights? 

We were so excited to be invited to the summer camps! We went into camp seeking to offer a combination of fun, education, and engagement for all ages. Our camps emphasized cooking and baking, but we also wanted to include health and sustainability in everything we did, while making those interesting topics to the kids. So, for example, one day we did a cookie experiment comparing a simple vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe to an especially healthy, totally sugar free vegan chickpea cookie recipe. The kids were pretty shocked how delicious the chickpea cookies were, in addition to how healthy and fun! Some other highlights were going into the garden, seeing what happened to be ready for harvest (grapes) and helping the kids design their own recipe to use up the produce that was available to them (they made grape tarts and juice). There were so many other fun little pieces, but in general it was so special to me that they stayed engaged with all of our recipes, were willing to eat new, healthy foods (even roasted beet and carrot ‘French fries’) and got to take home their recipes and treats to share with their families. I hope they all enjoyed it as much as I did! 

  1. What ideas or suggestions do you have for folks that want to take a more active role in understanding food, farms, and cooking? 

First, simply that they go to lots of farmers markets and connect with the farmers rather than just buy the goods. Visiting the markets is a great way to learn about what’s in season and available from a variety of local producers all at once, but talking to the farmers is an added bonus. You can learn so much from simple conversations with them, about the highlights and hardships of the work they do, and some ways they suggest cooking particular pieces of produce—especially unfamiliar ones! I love picking up vegetables I have no idea how to cook and asking what to do with them—and the farmers love to engage with customers and share their wealth of knowledge! Taking the next step and planning some farm visits, or purchasing directly from the farm stands, is another great way to be an active member of the community, supporting the local producers and getting the most healthy and sustainable food available!