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OCG Rallies Community to Fight Malnutrition and Hunger

By Kyle Young
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Founders of OCG.
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Moon Rabbit Café
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Michelle and Shannon Dobbs, co-founders of On Common Ground, threw one hell of a party Thursday night in the name of community, nutrition, and education.

Shannon and Michelle Dobbs, co-founders of OCG.

According to On Common Ground’s (OCG) website, the local non-profit humanitarian organization hopes to develop a hub for food distribution and preservation, establish a nonprofit grocery market in downtown Reno, empower the community through food waste reduction education, and to provide mobile grocery units designed to serve areas which have limited access to food.

One of the chief problems OCG is trying to address is the absence of an affordable grocery store in the heart of downtown Reno.

Why don’t for-profit grocery stores open up locations in downtown Reno, given its high population density?

Approximately 90,000 people, including university students, live in the downtown Reno area. Of those 90,000 residents, “59 percent of the downtown area is under poverty level. The grocery stores can’t see a return on their investment,” said Shannon Dobbs.

What are the limitations of our local food banks?

Dobbs explained that local food banks are restricted by their refrigeration capacity. Large quantities of perishable food are available for donation, but without the ability of the food bank to safely transport and store the food, it’s difficult to make use of everything available. The liability associated with the safe transport and storage of the food often prevents big-name grocery stores and casinos from donating large quantities of perishable foods.

Why does our community need an organization like OCG when many of us can drive to our grocery store of choice?

All our citizens cannot afford the transportation and food costs associated with traveling to and purchasing products from commercial grocery stores. Citizens living with these circumstances occupy what the USDA calls “food deserts.” A food desert is a region in which low-income inhabitants are geographically distant to healthy food such as fresh produce. In 2014, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR)  and the USDA collaborated on a study that concluded that more than 150,000 Nevadans live in a food desert. OCG and UNR are working to establish current statistics on Nevada’s food deserts.

How exactly does a block party in the Reno Buddhist Center help our community?

5-Chef CookOff took place at the Moon Rabbit Café inside the Reno Buddhist Center. Image: Kyle Young

The festivities of Thursday, April 19 focused on a 5-Chef CookOff, booths for social-service organizations, and an impressive raffle and silent auction. All net proceeds were donated to OCG to help them achieve the community goals stated above.

The rump-shaking tunes of Baker Street Band, libations from IMBĪB Custom Brews and Under the Rose Brewing Company, face-painting, and trivia hosted by UNR’s Student Nutrition Association provided fun for participants of all ages.

The cook-off required five local chefs to produce dishes for the crowd that included the use of WIC-approved foods and at least two items typically found in food pantries. The chefs were also required to provide modified recipes to the crowd that would allow for cooking the dishes in slow cookers, on hot plates, or in steamers. The recipes will soon be available on OCGReno.org.

Guests voted here for “Tastiest Dish.”

Rather than paying money for raffle tickets, guests received stamps from the social-service organizations after learning about what each group does for our community. Guests then submitted stamp sheets along with “tastiest dish” votes to participate in the raffle.

All the chefs produced outstanding dishes that can be recreated at home without breaking the bank. Chef Chris Baldwin, of the Wild River Grille, produced slow-cooker chicken  and lentil stew. Chef Adam Bronson, of The Philosophy Café at Sierra Hot Springs, produced jambalaya. Chef James Garza, of Great Basin Brewing Co., produced pasta al tonno (hot plate tuna pasta). Chef Chuy (Jesus Gutierrez), of Mari Chuy’s, produced Baja tuna ceviche with cactus salad. Chef Simon Warren, of Crème Neighborhood Café & Catering, produced lemon-pear glazed Greek salmon and sides.

Judges assessed the dishes using a 100-point scale with criteria including taste, health and nutrition, originality, and presentation.

Chef Garza’s pasta al tonno won the Kid’s Favorite award. Chef Warren’s lemon-pear glazed Greek salmon and sides swept the MacGyver Award, the People’s Choice award, and the Tastiest Dish award.

If you missed Chef Warren’s award-winning food at the 5-Chef CookOff, you have another chance to sample his cuisine at Moon Rabbit Café this Saturday, April 21 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Moon Rabbit Café is the bi-monthly pop-up kitchen hosted in the basement of the Reno Buddhist Center located at 225 ¾ W. Taylor St., Hiroma Hall. Diners “pay-what-they-can” to enjoy high quality food independent of their means. A $5 donation will cover the cost of one meal, and $10 will cover the cost of someone else’s meal. Diners can also volunteer their time instead of their money to participate.

The participating organizations of the 5-Chef CookOff, led by OCG, do not accept that malnutrition and hunger are perpetual problems for the communities of northern Nevada. Visit ocgreno.org to learn how your knowledge, time, and compassion can be used to strengthen the people of our community.

Judges included:

  • Mel Flores of UNR, Community Health Sciences
  • Johnathan Wright of The Reno Gazette Journal
  • Shane Piccinini of Food Bank of Northern Nevada
  • Todd South of Reno News & Review
  • Combination of all votes from attendees

Participating social-service organizations included:



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