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Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

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July 30, 2014

The Ties that Bind and Divide Us

One thing I have learned in my year in the Boston Young Adult Volunteer program is that food is a great equalizer. At the most basic level of our humanity we all have to eat. Breaking bread and sharing a meal together can create and symbolize intimate friendship, which was as true back in Jesus’ time as today.

Food brings people together like nothing else.

Another thing I have learned during this year is that food makes people extremely defensive. Some folks love to talk about local, organic, etc. food while others take it as a personal attack about their lifestyle. How and what we eat is so personal and a huge part of who we are, but something we don’t think much about, especially the effects of our food decisions on the environment and other people. (Start talking about making your own homemade, local, organic spinach pasta and people will either love it and think it’s awesome or roll their eyes because they think you’re pretentious.)

Food can divide people like nothing else.

The main way we are divided by food is by hunger—some people are able to eat enough healthy food and some aren’t. This can be as drastic at the fact that in some places children are dying of starvation and malnutrition while in the U.S. we throw away 40 percent of our food, or as subtle as who shops at farmers markets and who doesn’t, what food is considered elite and gourmet and what is cheap calories. Hunger isn’t a food shortage problem but one of poverty and access. There are some things we know:

 

Boston is a really interesting place for many reasons, especially because it is so young and culturally diverse. It is extremely progressive, eco-, bike-, and exercise-friendly, and definitely a foodie town. But somewhere in all that progress they seem to have decided that they’re beyond any -isms, such as racism, classism, sexism, etc. They seem to think those are other people’s problems that exist elsewhere or in the past. However, living in this “post-racial” society is just perpetuating the problems and discrimination that are alive and well right here, built into the social fabric. It is clear that in the U.S., including Massachusetts, race is a factor in hunger and poverty, and being aware of a problem doesn’t make it go away, but it’s the only way to start working on it.

There are some great organizations out there growing food and building figurative bridges in our community. The Boston YAVs have had the opportunity to volunteer with a few, such as the Earthworks Urban Farm in Detroit, which provides produce to two soup kitchens 6 days of the week. This Capuchin ministry employs people from minority neighborhoods that the rest of the country has forgotten about to grow food to help others in their community. Cape Abilities in Cape Cod employs differently-abled folks in their multiple farms, greenhouses, and store-fronts as well as provides education, housing, and transportation services.

Poverty, hunger, inequality, and injustice in its many forms separate us from our neighbors and keep us from loving each other as Christ commands. It’s a daunting challenge, but growing and eating food together is a good place to start.

Tags: boston, detroit, food justice, poverty, racism, yav


July 30, 2014

Abundance in the City

Interview with Rev. Karen Hagen, pastor of Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin about their new Rooftop Garden

You've had a community garden going for a few years now, but tell us about this new initiative.

Our Rooftop Garden has been completed and is growing with harvest coming.  Education around the gardens has included the Webinar, local newspaper, garden blessing, and upcoming canning and food use in Divine Intervention’s food programing.  We are participating in our synod’s just.good.food program as well.

How did you do it?

Approximately 14 volunteers worked on the Rooftop Garden installation, approximately 20 are working in our other gardens and maintain Rooftop Garden.  Primary responsibility for garden care falls upon our Garden Keepers who are homeless and formerly homeless Guests of our Divine Intervention Ministry.  Already we have approximately 100 lbs. of organic produce given away.  We have developed relationships with 4 funders, 2 restaurants interested in produce grown locally, and 1 local greenhouse that will help us look forward to next enhancements.

Anything surprising happen?

More volunteers than anticipated and a deepening relationship with our neighborhood! One of the unexpected challenges came in relying on one of our partners to coordinate different aspects of the installation of Rooftop Garden.  As we move to next aspects of our gardens, we will be proactive in taking on this role ourselves.

Do you have any recommendations for others that may want to try something similar?
Partnerships are key not only in accomplishing but maintaining the gardens.  Continually inviting new people to become involved is important to maintain support as key volunteers may need to limit or change their volunteerism with project.  Think forward!

Has this project changed your church or community in any way?

Yes!  It has allowed us to see what is possible as we stay faithful to our vision and think and partner creatively.  And, quite unexpectedly, new attention from the greater community is coming toward Tippecanoe in support and visitors to worship.

Here is the newspaper article about the initiative:

Two Milwaukee churches growing food & jobs

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July 29, 2014

Fancy Irrigation for Church Garden: A (somewhat) Cautionary Tale

Tell us about the project?

We were able to successfully install two rain barrels off the side of Immanuel Presbyterian Church (Indianapolis) that connects to an underground piping system. This piping system exits the ground inside the garden. Soaker hoses can be attached to the exit to water the garden or volunteers can put a watering can underneath the faucet. There is also a stand-alone rain barrel inside the garden. A watering can be filled by lifting the lid to the rain barrel & then dispersed in the garden. This will cut down the cost of maintaining the garden & make it easier for volunteers to water the garden.
Who was involved?
We had five adults and three kids participate in building the rain barrel system. We had seven kids & two adults plant the vegetables in the garden. Since installing, we have had 7 families volunteer to help care for the garden this summer as well as our church's Boy Scout troop.
Anything unexpected?
We spent about 5 weekends working on rain barrels instead of the planned 1-2 weekends. We had great difficulty gathering volunteers at the same time to complete a project of this size.
Challenging? Anything you'd do differently next time?
Installing the rain barrels next to the side of the building posed a challenge. A hill goes off that side of the building (which is what you need for the underground piping) and it took two times setting the rain barrels in order for them to not slant. The difficulty in getting volunteers for this project was also a challenge. We will not attempt a construction project this large any year in the near future. If a large project needs to be done again, we will break it up over many months into smaller much more manageable sections in order to get more volunteer participation.
What would you would encourage others to do if they try to replicate something similar in their area?
Do your research in how to install rain barrels properly. This project is not a cheap expense. Our grant money provided $300 of this project this year. Last year we raised $100 that was used in this installation. In addition, the family that oversees this project donated an additional $300 in order to make this project fully operational. So you will need much more than $300 to complete a project of this size. In addition, consider creating a committee of people in charge of completing an outdoor project of this scale, break the project up in small sections and designate individuals to oversee that portion of the project. Plan the project throughout the winter & have the individuals price out the parts needed per section to better estimate costs. Then, accomplish each section slowly throughout the entire length of spring, summer, & fall. Therefore, it will be fully complete in a year's time. We would also would recommend finding somewhere that the produce can be donated fresh instead of preserved. It is much less work and much easier to get volunteers.
Has this experience changed your church and community in any way?
We are in the interim search process for a new pastor and this project was one of the experiences we have shared that demonstrates some of the success and challenges of undertaking something of this size during a time of transition.  It also is helping us continue to grow in our relationship with people who are under-resourced with access to fresh produce and the programs/churches helping them with on-site assistance.
Anything else?
Our congregation has been blessed with a young adult couple (Kelly and Brad Shinabargar) who are passionate about growing healthy food and helping our congregation’s children learn how to garden.  They also have a passion for helping people who are under-resourced and the growth of this garden over the course of three growing seasons has been tremendous thanks to their determination, creativity, energy and imagination. We could not have accomplished this project without them and are grateful to God for their commitment to the Youth Garden!

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July 9, 2014

The Herb Garden

So early last fall at about the same time that I showed up around 67 Newbury to work at a church and a women's daytime shelter, an herb garden showed up too. The idea had been kicked around these parts for a while, and finally a go-getter of a volunteer made it happen. She donates flowers to the shelter weekly, and finally decided it was time that we grew things too.

 The herb garden, officially called The Herb Garden, supplies the shelter with organic dill, cilantro, oregano, parsley, rosemary, chives, tarragon, and basil.

 This garden has become one of my great projects. I water and weed it, harvest from it, talk to strangers on the street about the best growing practices for basil, and hand out sprigs of thyme to passersby.

 Now herbs are easy, they grow like weeds, and don’t require too much special attention. But I have never grown a thing in my life, and so I have grown quite attached to the health and success of these little herbs. This is the second round of plants for this garden, one in the fall and one in the spring, and this time I have yet to kill anything.

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July 8, 2014

Whitewater Valley Presbytery Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps - VISTA member

About Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps:

The Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps (AHOC) is an AmeriCorps VISTA project, sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the Wal-Mart Foundation, and managed by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. The VISTA members work in both rural and urban areas across the country as part of a public-private partnership to improve access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) for Americans in need.

 

Position Description:

Whitewater Valley Presbytery in partnership with the New York City Coalition Against Hunger is seeking a full-time ...

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