Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
My name is Ashley Earley and I am serving as a Presbyterian Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in Boston this year and our focus is food justice. I will be posting periodically onto this blog about various food related topics for the next year. First, I would like to introduce myself. I am from Rock Hill, SC (just south of Charlotte, NC) and graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in May with a bachelors in biology and a minor in math. I am currently taking a gap year before going to graduate school for a master’s in plant biology and afterwards plan to go into research. I have never been to the New England area before, but I am so far really enjoying my time in Boston.
For this year, I am serving at First Presbyterian Church in Brookline and at a non-profit called Woman and Girls Thriving in Brookline with a focus in the Healthy Food and Lifestyle working group. My role will be to learn and educate about food justice.
Also as part of the program we will be participating in two different food challenges. From September to the end of January is the local eating challenge and February to the end of July is the SNAP (food stamp) challenge.
I work at a food pantry that supplies fresh produce and non-perishables for countless individuals and families. Just today we had 18 clients visit us in just an hour and a half! These clients range from individuals and couples to families of 6 or more. They are all shapes and sizes, ethnicities, personalities and so on. There is rarely a dull day at our pantry.
That is even more true now. A local grocery store chain, embattled in a family feud, has had managers walk of the job (and some have been fired subsequently) and workers protesting outside stores. Produce ...
One thing I have learned in my year in the Boston Young Adult Volunteer program is that food is a great equalizer.
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.
As a Young Adult Volunteer in Boston I have gotten to do a lot of cool things: working with some amazing organizations, non-profits, and farms; going to movie showings and panel discussions on a regular basis; and learning how to make things like applesauce, noodles, and chicken stock from scratch. Working with Bread for the World and getting to participate in and help with Lobby Day, AKA the happiest and most chaotic day of the year for Bread staffers, was probably the coolest.
I spent last week in a confused, yet happy, yet exhausted state. I was all sorts of emotions at all times. Presbyterians know this week as General Assembly- and it's a force to be reckoned with.
The Food Justice Young Adult Volunteers in Boston have been doing things the old-fashioned way this year and have been making things at home that we would normally buy at the store—and for a lot more money. This comes partly from our commitment to simple living, partly from our passion for food justice and creation care, and mostly because we’re volunteers living on small monthly stipends and don’t have a lot of money. So far we have experimented with growing our own produce, freezing and preserving produce from our CSA or local farmers markets, baking bread from ...
I remember vividly the young woman who spoke so passionately about just wanting to be treated as a human. And of course the mothers talking about how they just want to take care of their children.
The Trinity. God in 3 persons. Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
Heard it since you were in Sunday school right? Well, have you ever compared the Trinity to salad dressing? Or the church to palette flavors? Probably not. Have no fear- it'll all make sense by the end of this post!
Salad dressing, as we learned today in our Salad Dressing Throwdown (yes, we had a competitive salad dress-off -- and you should too!) is comprised of 3 main components. 3 components like the Trinity. See how I did that?
This probably seems like two random things together, God and Massachusetts, but this is something that we frequently say at the Boston YAV house, especially about food.
It was silly, but I was still surprised that they did not come out of the ground ready to be borsht. They are covered in dirt, dark brown, earthy smelling. And I realized; it was a root.
Junk Food Awareness Day
It’s late on a Saturday night, dark, and we’re all tired and have gotten a little lost. We finally pull up to this large cabin in the woods that’s overflowing with people we don’t know. We get there right as mass is starting– the atmosphere is relaxed but sacred, the room crowded but cozy. There are candles everywhere and the homily is about Nelson Mandela and nonviolence. After the service all 60 of us share a potluck meal and later whoever is still there gathers around the wood stove in the living room to sing folk songs into the night.
We knew right away this was an interesting and unique place.
Why don't people eat all their food before it expires? And why are the holiday boy scout food drives or the Souper Bowl of Caring, the only times people look through all the food that's in their house? Food Justice starts at home folks! America, lets cut back on the waste and eat the food we buy!
Why are so many people hungry if there is so much food wasted?
“You can be an ambulance driver at the bottom of the hill or you can build a fence at the top.”
Christians are good (although not as good as we could be) at the idea of charity which involves taking care of the people who have been thrown off the proverbial mountain—the poor, hungry, and homeless. We do this through emergency assistance such as food pantries, shelters, free meals, etc. We are not so great at asking why are these people poor and underprivileged and then doing something about it—either by building a fence at the top of the hill or by changing the system that only allows a few people at the top, if you’ll allow me to extend the metaphor.
I am a YAV in Boston, working with and learning about food justice and economic discipleship. These topics have me examining how to live out our biblical calls to love our neighbor, care for the poor, the widows, the orphans, and do justice in terms of our food and economic decisions. It gets pretty complex because our food system and economy are so complex in recent decades.
Why is it that people can buy apples in the supermarket from hundreds of miles away while apple farmers within fifty miles are struggling to pay their workers?
I will run with that good news until the next thing pisses me off.
Learn from the world community.
Cherish the natural order.
~Living More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre~
Read that again. "Nonconform freely." It’s right there, waiting for us to let go of our inhibitions and be ourselves in this crazy world full of societal norms- gloriously creative life, waiting for us.
The other YAVs and I spent the first weekend of December on retreat in central Massachusetts. As part of our retreat we went Heifer International's farm in Rutland, MA. The farm has a global village of exact replica houses from the countries they serve, some livestock, and a group of volunteers who live on grounds to keep the farm functional.
The shelter doesn’t feel like a basement. It is painted a calming yellow, and there always seem to be fresh flowers around.