Run Happy: Exercise, and enjoy a refreshing reward.
Originally founded in Baton Rouge by Scott Higgins, Happy’s Running Club came to New Orleans in July 2012 through founding member Mark Berger. The club’s weekly group run attracts up to 100 participants, who meet at Happy’s Irish Pub on Poydras Avenue, run one of several pre-mapped routes and then reconvene at Happy’s for a chilly pint. “Basically, it’s a fun 5K,” Berger says. “Every Wednesday afternoon, we meet at 5:48 and start running at 6:16.”
Why those unusual starting and ending times? “I don’t like normal times!” Berger laughs. “Really, though, it gets people looking at the time more. It keeps people more interested.” Runners of all skill levels take part in the weekly run — and some only run part of the route. “It doesn’t matter if you want to run three miles, three blocks or just sit at the bar and pretend you’re running,” Berger says.
In combining the opposing pastimes of drinking and fitness, Happy’s Running Club takes the pressure out of exercising and emphasizes the sport’s more social aspects. “People say it’s comfortable,” Berger says. “They don’t feel intimidated by other runners. It’s very laid-back; everybody is welcome, and the routes are also fun.”
Happy’s also hosts regular running events, including themed races where wearing costumes is highly encouraged. In the past, the club has raised money for charities and nonprofits including Covenant House, the American Cancer Society, Girls on the Run and Youth Run NOLA. “I want to make it a community thing, so it’s really for people to get involved and not just [to] single out one running store or one group of people,” Berger says. facebook.com/happysrunningclubnola
Sprouting Up: New Orleans’ vegan food options are growing.
Brand-new plant-based restaurant Seed, which opened in April in the former Blue Plate Café location on Prytania Street, isn’t trying to pressure you into veganism. It just wants you to keep an open mind. “Part of what we’re trying to do is promote the plant-based diet standing on its own — and not preach too much,” says owner Edgar Cooper. “We want to show that [this food] is just as filling, flavorful and interesting as dishes with meat and animal-related ingredients.”
Seed was born out of Cooper’s travels and his own adherence to a plant-based diet since 1995. “As part of my software development and consulting job, I got to travel all over the world,” he says. Last October, he witnessed the destruction of orangutan habitats in Borneo — an issue directly impacted by humans’ dependence on palm oil. Inspired by the people he saw working to save these habitats, Cooper decided to start a sustainable business upon his return to New Orleans. He didn’t know it would be a restaurant, but serendipity intervened when he was looking to invest in real estate. “Everything just came together at the right time,” he says.
With chef Edward Rhinehart (formerly of Restaurant R’evolution), and Nicholas Hale and Leslie Garner (of Spiral Diner, a much-loved vegan outpost in Dallas), Cooper spent three months developing Seed’s menu. Popular specialties include the raw Pad Thai, made with spiral-cut cucumber and carrot “noodles,” mung bean sprouts, jicama, peanuts and lime-peanut dressing; and the Southern Fried Nuggets, created with locally made, deep-fried tofu, breaded in chickpea flour and served with a choice of dipping sauces or inside a po-boy.
So far, the “seedback” has been wholly positive. “It’s been really amazing,” Cooper says. “There’s a bigger-than-I-thought vegetarian and vegan community here, plus just a lot of people trying to eat healthier.” seedyourhealth.com
Food For All: No one should go hungry.
Cooking Matters, a nutrition and cooking-education program offered by Second Harvest Food Bank, offers low-income families and individuals the opportunity to learn how to cook healthy meals. Second Harvest partnered with national organization Share Our Strength to begin offering the program in 2011.
Kate McDonald, the Nutrition Education Coordinator who oversees Cooking Matters, offers free courses to community centers, churches and other organizations that serve low-income Louisiana residents. There are six individual courses tailored to kids, teens, adults, families, child-care professionals and even young parents.
“Each course is six weeks, and every single class is centered around a nutrition idea,” McDonald says. Classes include visual demonstrations of nutrition concepts, and everyone cooks. In some classes, participants take home a bag of groceries. Adult, family and teen-oriented classes also include a guided grocery-store tour, during which participants learn how to read nutrition labels and how to “debunk some of the ideas about what’s healthy in the grocery store,” McDonald says. “Honestly, everyone really needs to go on one of these tours. So many people don’t have this information!”
McDonald teaches many Cooking Matters classes herself, and she relies on a corps of dedicated volunteers for help. Volunteers don’t need to be chefs. “They just have to be interested in helping other people, and have an interest in food and healthy eating,” McDonald says. “I think it’s empowering that people from the community are lifting up others from the community. It feels less like a class and more like a gathering of peers.”
With volunteer help, Cooking Matters is growing — and traveling. “We’ve expanded to Lafayette and Baton Rouge,” McDonald says. “It has incredible potential to be a huge part of the food-access culture in the state of Louisiana.” She predicts that the program will offer 55 six-week courses in 2015.
Knowing that not everyone can dedicate two hours per week for six weeks to a cooking course, Second Harvest is also working on the Healthy Pantry Project, a new program that will make nutrition information and cooking demonstrations available at all 300 Louisiana food pantries the organization serves. no-hunger.org