Back in 2011, Pei-Ru Ko was hoping a change in diet would help her recover from a severe autoimmune disorder. She moved from Taiwan to San Francisco, where she shared her story and found emotional and practical support from local farmers and food crafters. Ko eventually learned that she was intolerant to gluten and grains and adapted accordingly.
Inspired by the stories she’d heard from local food producers, in 2014 Ko and some friends started to host gatherings that combined storytelling about food with a shared meal. “In a world riddled with technology,” she says, “Real Food Real Stories is getting people offline, slowing down, and listening, and putting people and their stories back into our understanding of where our food comes from.” Events include picnics that feature stories told by a changemaker, supper clubs to bring industry professionals together, and “digestifs” to deepen relationships.
This spring, Ko’s group hosted Fibershed founder Rebecca Burgess at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. A leisurely picnic provided by Oakland-based Town Kitchen was followed by Burgess’s tales of growing up on shared land and her year spent wearing only clothing sourced within 150 miles of her West Marin home. “Your refrigerator and your closet are both tied to the same land,” she said, encouraging a pivot to organic cotton and other compostable clothing.
To date, Real Food Real Stories has hosted 16 storytellers and more than 800 guests, produced 10 short films, and helped storytellers raise over $11,000. Upcoming summer events include a picnic with The Perennial’s co-founder Karen Leibowitz and a supper club with Keba Konte of Red Bay Coffee Roasters.