Volunteer of the Month: Mala Bingham
October 3, 2012
CUESA’s Volunteer of the Month program recognizes the dedication and work of some of our most active volunteers. CUESA relies on volunteers to help with education programs, special events, public outreach, and other activities that help fulfill our mission to cultivate a sustainable food system. Learn more about volunteering and sign up here.
It’s hard to categorize Mala Bingham within the CUESA Volunteer Program. She is a regular volunteer at Market to Table programs and the Info Booth, one of the most experienced outreach volunteers, a frequent envelope stuffer, and a consistent presence at CUESA events. “Mala goes above and beyond,” says Director of Education Julie Cummins. “She is very cheerful and efficient, has a great team spirit, and often stays for shifts she isn’t signed up for.”
CUESA: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for CUESA?
Mala: Professionally, I work in the administrative office of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, a nonprofit arts education organization based in Hayes Valley/Civic Center. Personally, I enjoy distance running, yoga, cooking, and frequenting the city's many and varied eateries with friends (brunch club shout out!), going to concerts, attempting to hold my own in tech talk, and in the fall, cheering on my alma mater, the University of Oregon football team. Go Ducks!
CUESA: Where does your interest in food come from?
Mala: It's been a long journey. Like many kids, I grew up on Kraft Macaron & Cheese; it wasn't until a few years after college, when I had put on a few pounds, that I actually started paying attention to what I was putting in my body. At first I fell into the "diet food" fad—primarily nonfat and processed foods—but after reading a few books on the subject (The Omnivore's Dilemma and Diet for a Hot Planet, among others), I realized the logic behind eating real, local, sustainably grown foods. From there I dove head first into furthering my understanding of how our eating habits affect not only our personal health, but also the well-being of our environment, economy, and communities.
CUESA: What made you want to volunteer for CUESA?
Mala: As my interest in all things food steadily grew over the years, I began entertaining the idea of applying to a grad program in either nutrition or public health. Having the opportunity to volunteer for CUESA in so many different capacities has enriched my knowledge of the various components of the food world and assisted me in finetuning my future educational and career path.
CUESA: Do you have any interesting stories from your time as a CUESA volunteer?
Mala: One of my favorite volunteer experiences to date was working the outreach booth at the Earth Day festival in Justin Herman Plaza. It was a beautiful day and the event was very well attended, so while soaking up the sun for the afternoon, I got to share my passion for farmers markets and sustainable agriculture with a wide range of people...oh, and I got to ride a Segway!
CUESA: What's your favorite thing to make in the kitchen?
Mala: I'm a big fan of simple cooking using what's in season and on hand. Often I forego seeking out recipes and just throw together whatever ingredients I already have in the kitchen. Give me a base of brown rice, a mix of lightly sautéed seasonal veggies, and a poached egg on top, and I am a happy girl! A poached egg on any dish instantly makes it magical.
CUESA: Do you have any seasonal market tips for our shoppers?
Mala: I have been obsessed with padrón peppers all summer long. Tossed with a splash of olive oil and salt in a blazing hot cast iron skillet, they are quickly transformed into the most delicious snack. I also really love H&H Fresh Fish Co.'s prepared Hawaiian-style poke. I'm mildly obsessed with soy lattés from Blue Bottle paired with a pastry from Les Elements. And I've never met a cheese I didn't like from any of the many market producers.