Archive for : Sustainability

Snapshots from the Jewish Food Justice Movement

This post was created in partnership with Jewish Food Experience, a project focused on bringing people together around Jewish food, culture, and tradition.

What does food justice look like on the ground? That depends on where you are. Across the country, urban and rural communities of all sizes struggle with food insecurity and uneven access and availability to healthy food. But the particular challenges these communities face change from place to place—and the movement shifts in response to those changes.

Repair the World partners with local organizations and volunteers in multiple cities—Pittsburgh, New York City, Detroit and Philadelphia—and on multiple fronts to galvanize food justice movements that reflect and prioritize each city’s specific needs. Recently, we reached out to our food justice Team Leaders, who are working with these communities to get a firsthand account of what food justice looks like from their vantage point. Read on:

What is the most pressing food justice-related challenge in your city?
PITTSBURGH
There are 2 Pittsburghs: the rust belt comeback story people talk about, and the segregation and separation that is keeping blacks, other minorities and individuals living on the margins from being able to access and partake in the “new” Pittsburgh. This affects the food movement as well. Farmers markets, urban agriculture and all the hot new eateries mainly serve the white, wealthier classes of the city. So how does our city continue to progress and move forward without leaving people out? – Greg LaBelle, 25

NEW YORK CITY
Hunger is the most salient food justice challenge for New York City. The high cost of living in NYC doesn’t just prevent people from consuming healthful foods, it straight-up prevents them from being able to purchase enough food. Some government and private programs help alleviate the hunger, but they are not sufficient and have physical and/or psychological barriers to entry. – Sam Sittenfield, 25

PHILADELPHIA
The availability and distribution of healthy food options throughout the city is pressing. Philly is the poorest large city in America. Food resources tend to be concentrated in the wealthiest areas while under-resourced areas have more corner stores (which often lack fruits and vegetables) and fewer grocery stores. – Bridget Flynn, 23

DETROIT
I think the most pressing food justice challenge in Detroit is childhood hunger. In southeastern Michigan, 1 in 5 children is food insecure and over 300,000,000 children qualify for free or reduced lunch in schools. Without consistent access to nourishing food, children and adults are not able flourish. – Erin Piasecki, 25

What role can/should Jewish food advocates play in helping address this challenge?
PITTSBURGH
Jewish organizations and advocates can truly support the people fighting these issues when they understand how best to support the individuals and groups that need help. It is crucial that we not overpower the people who need help and not diminish the focus on them and their struggle.

NEW YORK CITY
The first thing that we need to do is to educate ourselves. Many of us in the Jewish community come from privileged backgrounds and will never truly understand hunger. We can, however, start to understand the context and how pervasive it is in our communities.

PHILADELPHIA
I have seen Jewish food advocates help to make positive change in the food justice sphere by listening to community needs and providing the resources to fill them. A major part of ally-ship is active listening before taking action. Jewish texts can also be used as a tool for food justice education.

DETROIT
Jewish food advocates have tremendous power to keep hunger, and particularly the plight of hundreds of thousands of hungry children, in the public eye through awareness raising campaigns, food drives, and other volunteer driven initiatives in their communities. By supporting and collaborating with longstanding institutions advocates can amplify and concentrate their fundraising and other efforts to eliminate 21st century hunger.

Find out more about Repair the World’s food justice work, including #SupportforRefugees, a Passover campaign focused on the global refugee crisis, and how you can become a future Repair the World fellow. Big thanks to some of our wonderful local food justice partners: Grow Pittsburgh, Keep Growing Detroit, Jewish Farm School in Philadelphia and Hunger Free America in NYC.

Buy (Kosher, Sustainable) Meat from Grow & Behold and Support Masbia

Eating delicious food is a reward in and of itself. If it is also sustainably produced and kosher, that’s even the better. But what happens when the amazing dinner on your plate gives back to those in need? Win, win, win.

This Purim, Grow & Behold, the kosher sustainable meat company, will donate 5% of all orders delivered next week (March 14-18) to the kosher soup kitchen network, Masbia. In addition to partying, Purim is filled with many opportunities to give back to our friends and community. The Purim tradition of matanot l’evyonim, specifically instructs us to give charity to those in need. Grow & Behold donates products to Masbia year-round, but in the spirit of holiday, they up their game. And you can help!

Grow & Behold’s poultry and meat is raised on small, family-run farms. They adhere to strict standards of kashrut, animal welfare, worker treatment, and sustainable agriculture. Masbia, meanwhile, provides everyone in need – kosher keeping or not – meals with dignity.

Find out more about Grow & Behold’s products and place your order on their website. And learn more about the great work at Masbia your purchase will support at the video below:

Happy Purim!

Tu Bishvat Across America (Find an Event Near You)

New Year’s Eve has come and gone which means it’s time for 2016’s first Jewish holiday: Tu Bishvat! Commonly called the holiday for the trees (or Jewish Arbor Day), Tu Bishvat is an ancient holiday that has evolved and changed throughout the centuries into a celebration of tikkun olam (repairing the world), connecting to the environment, eating seasonal and ancient biblical fruits, and having fun at seder celebrations.

Over the last decade, celebrating Tu Bishvat has moved from the fringe to the mainstream. There are lots of great opportunities and events to honor Tu Bishvat around the country. Whether you’re a synagogue goer or more of a nature lover (or both), find one near you and plug in!

New York City (with Repair the World!): On January 24, join Repair the World and Kolot Chayeinu for a mystical Tu Bishvat seder experience. Meet our awesome NYC Fellows, sing, sample a delicious variety of fruits and nuts, and get hooked into the interconnectedness of all things.

New York City: If you are looking for something truly unique this Tu Bishvat, head to the 92Y’s Enchanted Rainforest Tu Bishvat Dinner on January 22. This earth friendly dinner includes lots of locally sourced fruits and veggies and tropical sounds to highlight some great singing.

New York City: Love great music? Celebrate the holiday of the trees on January 25 at the Manhattan JCC with a concert featuring some of the city’s most compelling artists.

Chicago: On January 26, head to the Chicago Botanical Garden for a family freindly Tu Bishvat celebration. Plant a seedling, enjoy a special Tu Bishvat book reading, and explore the trees in the greenhouse.

Philadelphia: The City of Brotherly Love’s own Morris Arboretum is celebrating Tu Bishvat. From January 24-31, student groups can take part in an interactive tree education program. They’ll even get to take home a birch tree seedling.

Washington DC: The DC JCC is hosting multiple Tu Bishvat events this year – a family seder on January 25 and a brunch on the 31st that’s equal parts earth-friendly and entertaining.

Berkeley: Urban Adamah’s “divine sensory” seder (featuring farm crafted libations and a six course local, kosher menu) is sold out for the year. But check it out online because it looks amazing – and mark your calendar to get tickets early next year!

San Diego: On January 24 the Leichtag Foundation will host the Food Forest Festival, an all-day celebration featuring tree planting and a live concert.

Seattle: Have a little person in your life? On January 21 take them to The Seattle Public Library for a special Tu Bishvat story time co-sponsored by PJ Library.

Redwoods, California Join Wildnerness Torah on January 24 for an experiential and totally natural Tu Bishvat seder in the Redwood forest. Where better to celebrate than amongst the trees?

DIY / Anywhere: Don’t see an event in your area? Make one yourself! The awesome Jewish sustainability organization, Hazon put together a great collection of resources on their website to help you plan your own amazing Tu Bishvat seder.

Food Justice Interview: Gidi Kroch of Leket Israel

This fall, Repair the World is building a movement to Inspire Service, focusing on the critical issue of food justice in conjunction with Hunger Action Month.

Meanwhile, we’re spotlighting the work of awesome food justice organizations around the world. First up: Leket Israel – the country’s National Food Bank and largest food rescue network. Leket’s mission is to lead the safe, effective, and efficient collection and distribution of surplus nutritious food in Israel, to those who need it. We spoke with Leket’s CEO, Gidi Kroch, about what makes their work so critical, what he finds most challenging, and what inspires him.

Why is the work you do around food so important in Israel right now?
There is a lot of food waste all around the world, including Israel. At the same time, Israel is in line with the world’s largest agricultural production, even with its limited space. In addition, like other western countries, unfortunately, the need is growing and the gap is widening. Our government is not doing its part to financially support the food insecure. All of this contributes to the criticalness of Leket Israel’s work in food rescue and redistribution to those in need across the country.

Can you share a story that demonstrates Leket’s impact?
In addition to Leket Israel rescuing more than 30 million pounds of produce and perishables that would have been destroyed annually, we advocate for the nonprofits we serve and many others providing food to the poor. A recent example of this was our appeal to the Ministry of Health regarding a bill they were planning on passing that would have negatively affected the work the nonprofits were doing.

We were successful, and the Ministry of Health granted a four year extension which allows NPOs the ability to continue their work feeding those in need. Another important step that Leket is taking is to encourage resistant food donors who currently do not donate their surplus food by drafting and promoting the passing of Israel’s first Food Donation Act. Modeled after the U.S. Good Samaritan Law, this would protect all donors’ food donations given in good faith. We hope that this will pass in Israel in the immediate future as we believe it will not only minimize waste but will greatly enhance the amount of food currently being rescued.

In what ways do volunteers get involved?
Leket Israel enlists over 60,000 volunteers each year. They lend a hand in a range of projects such as volunteering with Project Leket (gleaning in the fields), picking fruits and vegetables for distribution to Leket’s nonprofit partner agencies, and sorting food at Leket Israel’s main logistics center in Ra’anana. There, the volunteers sort produce from the large agricultural bins and repackage them into smaller crates in preparation for delivery to the NPOs. Volunteers are also an integral part of Leket to Table, Leket Israel’s meal rescue program. Volunteers go out during the day and at night to collect excess meals from corporate cafeterias, restaurants, event halls.

What are your biggest challenges? And what inspires you most?
One of the biggest challenges we face is that there is just so much more surplus food out there, and we can not get to all of it – knowing that fresh, nutritious food is going waste instead of feeding someone who is food insecure. On the other hand, it has been truly inspiring to witness the willingness of Israeli farmers to donate their produce to Leket. The farmers, in many cases, are struggling themselves but this does not prevent them from giving their excess fruits and vegetables to help others.

Find out more about Leket Israel’s work around food justice on their website.

Spotlight On: The 4 Liter Challenge

Showers, watering the plants, cooking, cleaning, drinking during a run – we use water in countless ways every day. In fact, each American uses an average of 100 gallons every single day. (Yes, 100!) But if you were challenged, could you make do with less? Like, a lot less?

That is the question posed by DIGDEEP – a water conservation and advocacy organization based in California. Their challenge? Live on just 4 liters (a little over 1 gallon) of water for 24 hours. Why 4 liters? It’s the same amount of water that nearly a billion people in the world survive on each day.

Think you can do it? Sign up to take the challenge. (With the water and rain-focused holiday of Sukkot just behind us, now is the perfect time!) While you’re at it, you can let your friends and family know what you’re up to, learn more about countries’ water needs, track your challenge, and raise funds to help DIGDEEP build sustainable water projects in the communities across the world that need it most.

Find out more by watching the video below, then dive in!

Spotlight On: The Shmita Project

Imagine a world where every 7 years, everything changed – like really, radically changed. For one whole year, business as usual would cease. No one would plant or harvest anything from the land. It would like fallow and rest. All debts between people, meanwhile, would be forgiven and the slates would be wiped clean.

Jewish tradition contains within it this exact scenario: shmita. Literally meaning “release,” shmita arrives in Israel every seven years to ensure that society remains fair and just. Of course, there’s often a big difference between biblical ideals and what happens in real, practical life, so Hazon and the Jewish Farm School came together to create The Shmita Project – an initiative working to “expand awareness about the biblical Sabbatical tradition, and to bring the values of this practice to life today to support healthier, more sustainable Jewish communities.” They are not suggesting that everyone practice shmita down to the letter of the law, but to simply ask – what might being more mindful about the practice do to change my life, and my community, for the better?

The shmita year began on Rosh Hashanah and extends for one full year until next Rosh Hashanah. How might you incorporate some of it’s teachings of sustainability and justice into your daily life? How might letting go – and hitting the metaphorical “reset button – in certain areas help transform things in positive ways?

To learn more, check out Hazon’s shmita educational resources. They have all the info you need to get inspired,, learn about shmita’s relevance to contemporary life, organize a shmita-inspired event in your community, and join a network of people around the country doing the same.

Now’s the time to dig in – find out more on Hazon’s website.

Jumpstart Shelter Related Projects in Honor of Sukkot

The spirit of Sukkot is in the air. And for those of us who have sat in a sukkah in the last week (a temporary outdoor shelter built during the holiday of Sukkot), the scent of Sukkot – pine boughs or bamboo, gourds and pumpkins, apples and citrusy etrogim – is in the air too.

That’s why in this month’s installment of Repair the World’s ongoing crowdsource funding series, we scouted some shelter-related projects that are currently campaigning for support. They’re all totally different from one another, and all really inspiring. We don’t know the people involved in these projects personally, but we think the work they are doing is worthy of some serious attention. We hope you do too!

Families of Color Seattle This awesome organization is building an intergenerational gathering space for families that perpetuates a culture of inclusivity, community building and play-centered learning. Help them build their Cornerstone Cafe!

Clarity Hamlet Help build an eco-friendly, straw-bale home for Buddhist nuns in California. The project is hoping to fund the creation of three dormitories for the sisters called Clarity Hamlet. Their sustainable cred includes passive solar design, recycled steel roofs, grey water recycling, and straw bale walls made from agricultural waste of from local growers.

Wood and Stone Retreat Help save and refurbish a historic property in Maryland, and reenergize the economy of a town. Two good deeds for the price of one!

Awesome Sukkot Events, 2014

This year, Sukkot begins on Wednesday, October 8, at sundown. It brings with it a focus on harvest, hospitality, the gift of shelter, and an abundance of good food. Meanwhile, when it comes to connecting to social issues like hunger, sustainability, and housing rights, Sukkot is ripe (pun intended!) with possibility.

Each year, congregations and communities around the country find ways to make those connections explicit. Join in the fun by checking out one of these creative and inspiring Sukkot events:

Sharing the Faith – Sukkot
October 10 and 15, Chicago
Join the Niagara Foundation in exploring Sukkot, while offering interfaith educational opportunities. From a Shabbat service, to a conversation about homelessness on Sukkot, it promises to be a worthwhile event.

Eat, Pray, Lulav: A Sukkot Harvest Festival
October 12, Berkeley, CA
Join Urban Adamah for their fourth annual harvest festival complete with opportunities to harvest fall crops, build a cob oven, take a farm tour, and enjoy live music. Bring a canned food item to donate.

Aztec-Jewish Harvest Festival at Proyecto Jardin
October 12, Los Angeles, CA
The congregation IKAR and their urban sustainable garden partner, Proyecto Jardin, are teaming up for a unique, cross-cultural Sukkot event.

Hazon Jewish Food Festival
October 12, Encitas, CA
Spend Sukkot on an honest-to-goodness Jewish ranch, and join nutritionists, chefs, farmers, rabbis, educators, and food enthusiasts in celebration of the values of the Jewish Food Movement.

Sukkot Harvest Celebration
October 14, Boston, MA
Celebrate Sukkot with the Jewish garden, Ganei Beantown, The Riverway Project and the Moishe Kavod House in Temple Israel’s organic vegetable garden and sukkah. Prepare a meal together, learn Torah, and join in an open mic.

Repair Interview: Sabrina Malach on Shoresh

Over the last two decades, the Jewish environmental movement has grown from a fringe afterthought, to an important aspect of the mainstream Jewish community. Organizations like Hazon and programs like the Jewish Farm School, Teva, and Adamah have made a big impact in the States. Now, an awesome organization called Shoresh, founded in 2009 in Toronto, is helping to expand this awareness to the Canadian Jewish community. Repair the World recently spoke with Director of Community Outreach, Sabrina Malach, about Shoresh’s programming, gardening across the generations, and realizing the dream of land-based Judaism in Canada.

What was the inspiration behind starting Shoresh?
Both the founder, Risa Alyson Cooper, and I are from Canada but lived and participated in programs at The Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Connecticut. We were fellows in Adamah, the Jewish farming fellowship, and Risa was also a Jewish environmental educator with Teva. We talked a lot about what it would be like if we could bring programs like that to Toronto.

When Risa came back to Canada, she had the great idea of starting a community garden in the suburbs, and that was the beginning of Kavannah Garden. At the same time, there was a huge new Jewish community center in development in the northern part of the city, and she had the foresight to approach them about starting the garden there. Most of our other programs stem from there – overall, Shoresh’s success has centered on offering the right programs at the right time.

What types of programs do you run?
Kavannah Garden is our flagship program. Each spring and fall, dozens of day school groups come to visit. Shoresh developed a curriculum for kids from kindergarten to grade 5. It weaves in Jewish and ecological teachings, but is based on Ontario’s curriculum, so it allows teachers to justify field trips. One program example is, we have this bike-powered blender that the kids love. They’ll go and harvest edible weeds and herbs, then go on the bike and turn them into pesto. So it teaches them about plants and nutrition, and helps them learn to see a world where food is everywhere and everything is valuable. It also draws from the Talmudic teaching that it is forbidden to live in a city where there is no vegetable garden.

In addition to the school groups, we have have a family farm drop-in program, and a CSA running out of the garden. It has been so restorative to build this ecological place deep in the heart of the Toronto suburbs. Our hope is that people take the ideas they learn and that they ripple out into their backyards and neighborhoods.

Do you have educational programs outside of Kavannah Garden as well?
Yes, definitely – we work with participants from kindergarten age to people in their 90s. We partnered with the Baycrest geriatric center to develop three gardens. We’ve trained the staff their and also go in every other week to work with clients. It is amazing to sit with bubbes and zaydes there, many of whom have Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia, and talk about growing food. We do a lot of sensory workshops with them, like having them smell herbs. Working with them is a reminder that a lot of the work we do with gardening and food is not new, and that we have a lot of wisdom to glean from our elders.

We also started a new program at the Kensington Market called Maxie’s garden. Kensington was once the center of Jewish food and communal life in Toronto – it was where all the kosher butchers and bakers were located. That is mostly gone now, but there is a man in his 90s who has been living in this house there since 1927. His backyard has some of the best soil I’ve ever seen! We partnered with Toronto’s Jewish Family & Child Services to create a program in his backyard where women working below the poverty line come and grow food. It is amazing to help revive some Jewish food culture in Kensington, while actively bringing social justice into our programming.

What do you have planned for the future?
Our next big project is the creation of Bela Farm, a 114-acre rural center for land-based Judaism, education, and farming in Ontario. Expanding from a quarter-acre garden to a huge farm an hour outside of Toronto is a big jump, so we have spent the last three years visioning with our creative team to think about what we want, and how to make it our own instead of just replicating other farm projects. We hope to fully launch in 2016, but have already started an apiary there, started a small orchard of 17 fruit trees, and planted 300 garlic cloves (originally from Adamah!), which we hope to double this year. We are taking it slow and weaving permaculture and Jewish values like shmita into the design of the space.

How has working with Shoresh impacted you personally?
Personally, it has been so amazing to be able to work with a small organization that does so much amazing work. My own personal interests have been nurtured, and I have had the space to learn and explore while making a difference.

Learn more about Shoresh, Kavannah Garden, and Bela Farm – and see lots of great farm and garden pics! – at Shoresh’s website and Facebook page.