Meet Our Team: Cindy Mendoza

January 5, 2024

Photo of Cindy Mendoza, Foodwise staff at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

Meet Cindy Mendoza, who joined Foodwise as a cooking demo volunteer in 2005 and was hired in spring 2013. Cindy serves as Foodwise’s Volunteer & Special Projects Coordinator, managing volunteers, coordinating special projects, and providing administrative support to Foodwise.

Tell us a bit about you, your background, and your role at Foodwise.

I was surrounded by good food growing up. My mom served great homemade meals, and my dad tended a summer backyard garden with lots of basil and herbs, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, ampalaya, saluyot, and other Filipino vegetables at our home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I remember them going to the market in the wee hours to get a deal on fish and the next morning, scaling and gutting them to put up in the freezer. Before “organic” was a thing, my dad would dig holes next to his garden plants and drop in fish guts as fertilizer, and we always composted our kitchen scraps. He learned this growing up in Ilocos Sur.

I had my own first farming experience at Maple Acres Farm selling produce and picking Silver Queen corn and zinnias. I loved the locally grown white peaches. This family farm is an oasis and one of the few green spaces remaining as suburban sprawl has taken over, and I always stop in to see Gary the farmer and buy produce when I visit home.

After a few years working with a nonprofit housing developer in Manhattan, the Green Tortoise bus brought me to San Francisco in 1997. Before joining the Foodwise team, I worked with local nonprofits and volunteered as a Mission mural tour guide with San Francisco City Guides and served on the board of Asian Culinary Forum, which celebrates Asian cuisine and culture at events like the community-building Filipino Flavors.

I started as a volunteer with Foodwise in 2005 helping on Saturday mornings with the cooking demos and supporting events like Sunday Supper. I’ve been selling produce with Heirloom Organic Gardens on Saturdays at Ferry Plaza since 2008 and joined the Foodwise staff in 2013. As the Volunteer and Special Projects Coordinator, I manage the office, run the volunteer program and support our fundraising efforts including our special events Summer Bash, Sunday Supper and Cocktails of the Farmers Market. I appreciate the Foodwise community from different perspectives. It’s a great community that we have!

What’s something that you wish people understood better about Foodwise?

Our restaurant and beverage partners have been a huge support for us, both in the market and at our fundraising events. Our event income used to support our education programs and operations throughout the year, but now our hospitality partners are suffering from the lockdown. This is why it’s important for our individual donors to support our farmers markets and help us safely relaunch our in-person education programs when the time is right. We saw a great outpouring of donations at the start of the pandemic and will need regular financial support. We will be developing our monthly giving program and rolling out other fundraising campaigns while we come up with new festive ways to engage with our audiences. Any leads for fundraising opportunities are welcome. We appreciate all your support to keep our food producers connected with our community.

What inspires or motivates you about your work?

The people and community are the best parts of my work with Foodwise. There’s always a farmer, shopper, chef, donor, volunteer, fellow seller, and community partner to connect with. Our food producers work hard to bring amazing products to market through a lens of sustainability. It’s a joy to see more of the chefs coming back to the market as they are able to gradually reopen. I love how our shoppers and volunteers still continue to support us even with our adjusted activities and all the new market restrictions in place. It’s great to see the many ways that our community comes together for good food in a safe environment.

What do you do to recharge outside of work?

I take daily walks with my husband and the occasional bike ride with friends around town or to Ocean Beach on a sunny day.

Do you have any favorite farmers market tips you can share?

All the greens we offer at Heirloom Organic Gardens. Since it’s hard to keep up with eating all of my produce in salads or other fresh preparations, I often make frittatas with beet and spring onion tops I’ve salvaged from customers who ask for them to be removed. I also love eating wilted mustard greens with fried egg, rice, sliced radishes, green onions, and Volcano kimchi for a quick breakfast. Growing up my mom would prepare the full Filipino silog breakfast on Saturday mornings with longanisa, and pangat na isda. Although it’s not that big nap-inducing meal, I like my veggie-forward mashup of this simple dish and bibimbap.

Photo of Foodwise volunteers and staff in front of a teal and green photo backdrop.