Weekend Warriors

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La Vida Local

APTOS (October 14, 2012) - Athletes battle for the ball at the Santa Cruz Warriors open tryouts, which drew 68 basketball dreamers to the Aptos High gymnasium Sunday morning. Thirteen hopefuls came from Santa Cruz County, including 4 from Watsonville High, 3 from Soquel High, 2 from Santa Cruz High, and one each from Harbor and Pajaro Valley high schools, UCSC and Cabrillo. ©santacruzwire.com

 

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Free-Range Flowers Love To Roam

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Farm & Garden

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ - Flowering plants look so sedentary in their garden beds, so docile, so dependent. But turn your back for a few months and, before you know it, they’re wandering all over the place.

It’s not just the urban critters that roam in my garden. I count nearly twenty different flowering annuals that sprout up every year, wherever they please, forming thickets beneath the porch stairs and twining around the compost bins. Oriental poppies shoot up in a new spot every winter, blooming at eye level and dying off just as we’re planting the summer vegetables. Mounds of nasturtiums billow beneath the fruit trees, and brighten neglected corners.

But I haven’t purchased any of these plants in years.

 

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Great Blue Hunter

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(June 2012) - Great Blue Heron hunts for gophers in UCSC's Great Meadow ©santacruzwire.com
 

Santa Cruz by Segway

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Santa Cruz

Written by Tara Leonard

SANTA CRUZ, CA (June, 2011) - If you'd like to feel like a celebrity – albeit one with helmet hair – try riding a Segway. As my friend Maria and I discovered, zipping around town on these two-wheeled, stand-up vehicles is an invitation for public attention. Little kids smiled and waved. Walkers looked startled and then curious. At least one person took our picture. It was a fun and decidedly different way to explore Santa Cruz on a sunny summer day without ever breaking a sweat.

Our adventure began at the recently opened Segway Santa Cruz located across from Depot Park on the round-about. The two-hour tour started with a brief and unintentionally hilarious safety video. Since we weren't planning on riding down stairs or through bumpy, rock-strewn terrain, we figured it was safe to sign the waiver.

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Solemn Sendoff

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La Vida Local

SANTA CRUZ (May 14, 2012) - Hundreds of mourners march through Santa Cruz to complete the journey of Shannon Collins, the downtown business owner killed in a random attack as she returned to her shop following a hairdresser's appointment.

 

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(PART FIVE) Gleaning the Fields: Volunteers Gather Fresh Food for the Poor

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Farm & Garden

Written by Maria Gaura

CASTROVILLE, MONTEREY COUNTY, CA. (Sept. 2011) - When harvesting Iceberg lettuce, first give the plump round head a squeeze. If the lettuce feels firm and dense, jab the wedge-shaped harvesting knife at the base of the plant to sever the stem, pull off the floppy outer leaves, and drop the moist green orb gently into the harvesting crate.

But if the lettuce gives beneath your touch, or has a spot of mold or a brown leaf, leave it behind. There are thousands of leftover lettuces in this ocean-view field, and our crew of volunteer gleaners has only one truck to haul away its share, so we take only the perfectly full and heavy Icebergs, and leave the rest for the plow.

It seems unbelievable that so many beautiful, perfectly-shaped vegetables will be tilled back into the earth, but in fact, an estimated 20 percent of all field crops grown on California’s Central Coast are left in the field or thrown out at the packing shed.

 

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Boardwalk Whirl

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SANTA CRUZ (August 12, 2011) - Summer visitors take a moonlight whirl at the Beach Boardwalk.©santacruzwire.com

 

 

(PART FOUR) Santa Cruz Farmers Keep Food Banks Afloat With Tons of Fresh Produce

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Healthy Living

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ, CA (Sept. 2011) - Farmers in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties donate thousands of tons of fresh fruits and vegetables to food banks every year, supplying feeding centers as far away as Washington and Colorado.

It’s a massive foodlift operation that all began 38 years ago with a freezer full of slightly yellow cauliflower.

The year was 1973, and Michael Alexander was a VISTA volunteer assigned to a tiny emergency food pantry in Santa Cruz, where his job was to scrounge up dented cans and long-in-the-tooth produce from grocery stores to hand out to needy families.

“One day I got a call from a lady in Watsonville who told me she had some cauliflower that she hated to see thrown away, and did we want it,” Alexander said. “I thought it was a great idea and I asked ‘how much do you have?’ And she said “oh, about 30 tons’.”

 

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Summer Buzz

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Farm & Garden

Pollen-laden bee casts a shadow through poppy petals. Maria Gaura ©santacruzwire.com

 

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(PART THREE) Evaluating Nutrition Education Efforts at Santa Cruz's Second Harvest Food Bank

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Healthy Living

By Tara Leonard

WATSONVILLE, CA (September, 2011) - As the staff and volunteers at Second Harvest Food Bank work to combine food distribution with community-based nutrition education, the obvious questions arise: Do these peer education programs actually make a difference? Do participants change their eating habits for the better? And do these behavioral changes create measurable differences in participants' health? While anecdotal evidence points towards a positive impact, hard data is not yet available. But with scarce social service resources increasingly allocated to evidence-based practices, data collection is becoming a bigger focus at Second Harvest.

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Riverside Reverie

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SANTA CRUZ (July 21, 2011) - The San Lorenzo River levee bikepath runs beneath the Riverside Ave. bridge near the Beach Boardwalk. ©santacruzwire.com

 

 

(PART TWO) Peer Education and Nutrition Outreach at Santa Cruz's Second Harvest Food Bank

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Healthy Living

By Tara Leonard

WATSONVILLE, CA (September, 2011) -- In a Watsonville elementary school auditorium, sixty adults brainstorm ways to incorporate exercise into their busy lives. In a meeting room at nearby Church of the Nazarene, several dozen men, women and children whip up delicious licuados, or smoothies, made with fresh spinach, oranges, and melon. At Dominican Rehabilitation Hospital, thirty women take a brisk stroll around the grounds before gathering in a third-floor lounge to cook vegetable stir-fry with brown rice, garlic and ginger.

All of these activities are a part of the nutrition education and outreach services of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County. By combining fresh fruit and vegetable delivery with health education, Second Harvest is empowering food bank members to become active participants in their community’s nutrition education. It’s just one of many ways in which Second Harvest has transformed itself from a “food bank” to a “nutrition bank”. Along the way, they are creating the community organizers of tomorrow.

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(PART ONE) Santa Cruz Food Bank Switches Focus From Calories to Nutrition

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Healthy Living

Written by Maria Gaura

SANTA CRUZ, CA (Sept. 2011) – When California’s first food bank opened in this Central Coast city in 1972, its mission was simple and practical: eliminate hunger by collecting society’s surplus food and giving it to people in need.

Families with a referral from a social service agency could come to the Emergency Food Bank in the city’s Harvey West Business Park and take home a bag of groceries containing three days worth of food.

“Our emergency food bags held dented canned goods that we collected from grocery stores, bags of rice and dried beans, and whatever fresh vegetables the stores would give us,” said Michael Alexander, who began working at the food bank as a VISTA volunteer and eventually transformed the little pantry into the Second Harvest Food Bank, a regional powerhouse that now feeds more than 54,000 people every month. “We gave away one bag per person in the family, and people survived on that.”

But over the years, the mix of donated foods flowing into Second Harvest’s Watsonville warehouse changed dramatically, reflecting wider changes in the American diet and food supply. Agricultural commodities such as apples, rice, and beans were overwhelmed by a flood of processed foods, including tons of sugary soda and energy drinks.

 

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You Don't Know Squatch (Until You Visit Felton's Bigfoot Discovery Museum)

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Travel - Santa Cruz

 
By Tara Leonard

FELTON, CA (August 9, 2011) -- Michael Rugg is a true believer. Seated behind the counter of his Bigfoot Discovery Museum , Rugg is a genial and convincing tour guide, regaling visitors with the history and science behind the huge, hairy biped known as Sasquatch. Suspend disbelief for a half-hour and Rugg will try to convince you that this infamous beast is living rather than legend. Believe him or not, it's a fascinating, fun-filled adventure, sure to amuse even the most skeptical visitor.

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Why I Force My Students to Memorize Poetry (Despite the Fact that it Won't be on the Standardized Test)

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Arts and Review

 by Andy Waddell

SANTA CRUZ (July 21, 2011) - Some years ago, at a conference of English teachers, a group of colleagues and I found ourselves in a room by a fire with time to kill. I suggested that each of us recite some poem or speech we had learned in school. I realize that such a suggestion is nerdy to an almost unbelievable degree, but these were English teachers after all and I expected full well that the idea would be taken up with enthusiasm. I pictured, not only exclamations as to the beauty of the lines, but funny stories of nervousness overcome, childish misreading of famous lines, perhaps even negative comments, such as, “And that is why, to this day, I cannot stand Longfellow.” What I did not expect from my young colleagues was their reaction that they had “never really memorized anything.”

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