Archive for : Repair the World Communities & Fellowship Program

A Pie Sale for Repair the World!

Laura Bratkowski is a Pittsburgh-based pastry chef who, until recently, had never heard of Repair the World. But last spring, the executive chef at Spoon (the restaurant where Bratowski works) was featured at one of Repair the World’s Chef Series dinners. Excited by what she saw, Bratowski offered to raise money for Repair the World by doing what she does best: baking.

This Thanksgiving, Bratkowski – who trained at the French Culinary Institute and previously worked for Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City – will prepare hundreds of pies to grace local Pittsburgh residents’ holiday tables. All of the proceeds from sales will go to Repair the World’s work. Bratkowski took a few minutes in between planning the pie sale (not to mention working full time as a pastry chef) to share what inspired her to support Repair the World’s work. Check it out and order your pies here!

This sounds like such a lovely project – how did it come about?
I first heard about Repair the World when the executive chef at my restaurant was featured at a dinner event they did in Pittsburgh. I went in expecting some fancy china and champagne dinner, but that wasn’t what I saw. Everything was served buffet style, and people had showed up to hear someone speak about food waste. It was very real, and it was clear that people were there for the right reasons – it inspired me.

In my line of work as a pastry chef, we work crazy hours and you don’t often hear a lot about people giving back to their community. I wanted to do something to help support Repair the World’s work. So I called them up and said, “Count me in for a Thanksgiving pie sale.”

What types of pies are you making?
We are selling all the classics – pumpkin, pecan, and apple. And one of my very good friends at Gluuteny has offered to make gluten free and dairy free versions of the pies. Our goal is to sell 300 pies in total. Spoon graciously offered to let me run the whole operation out of their kitchen, and I’m working with local grocers and 412 Food Rescue to get some donated ingredients.

How can people help out?
We have volunteers coming in along the process – anybody who wants to take part is more than welcome. If they want to come bake, great! If they want to help get the pies packaged and ready for pickup, wonderful. If they just want to purchase and eat pies, that works too!

Do you have a personal connection to Jewish tradition?
No, I was raised Catholic. But to me it doesn’t matter – Jewish, Catholic, whatever – as long as your heart is in the right place. Honestly, I just fell in love with the people at Repair the World. There is nothing fake about them – they are genuine and they deserve somebody to recognize the good that they do.

How can people order pies?
Repair the World set up an order form, so people can choose what they want. The cutoff day to order is November 17, and then we start baking on the 19th. Pie pickup will be on November 22 at Repair the World’s Pittsburgh location.

Coming Home: Reflections on the Jewish Multiracial Network Retreat

The following post is by Rebekkah (Bekkah) Scharf, food justice fellow with Repair the World: Philadelphia. Bekkah identifies as a SF-born Hapa and Jewish Chinese-American; she attended the University of California: Santa Cruz, and is member of Kol Tzedek Synagogue in West Philadelphia.

 

“It is beautiful and rare to have Jewish spaces where I walk through the door and think: I belong.” Sabrina Sojourner is a Chazzan, chaplain, and attendee of the 18th annual Jewish Multiracial Network (JMN) family retreat on May 12th-15th.

I felt a sense of relief wash over me, filling every pore of my skin, every braciole in my lungs, and a lump in my throat, as her words resonated with me and every other person in the space. It was a breath of fresh air: I had found my people.

Finally.

In August I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Philadelphia, yet to find a space where Jews of Color and patrilineal Jews like myself, felt welcome. I had met Tamara Fish, the current president of JMN, at the Repair the World: Service Matters conference last year. According to Fish, JMN “is the only grassroots Jew of Color organizing group run by Jews of Color, whose demographics range from every permutation of family imaginable, both progressive and traditional from renewal, and everything in-between.” Several months later, she encouraged me to attend their family retreat.

I did not only feel welcome, but celebrated. I did not only feel comfortable, but like a giant weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I discovered something critically important missing in my life, something I had recently heard of, but never seen with my own eyes: a thriving, multi-ethnic, intergenerational Jewish community. And a space where I was allowed–no– empowered, to unravel, reflect, discuss, and most importantly, celebrate our shared experiences, with 70 other Jews of Color and white allies, of all ages.

davened, studied, and learned with young adults, parents, teens, kids, and entire families, Orthodox and progressive alike. African, African  American, Filipino American, Chinese American, and Latinx American Jews, LGBQ Jews, from six months to elderly, were in attendance. Traditional and progressive Shabbat services were held on Friday night and Saturday morning, where we counted the Omer and read from the Torah.

I hugged babies and played with the children, shared, listened, and met people who now feel like family. I exchanged stories and life experiences with other Jews of Color and their families, most of whom I had just met that weekend.

I grieved, raw, emotionally, and unexpectedly, with people who truly understood, grateful for every single moment, the Shehecheyanu playing in my head like a broken record.

As Rabbi Mira Rivera, the first Jew of Color at Jewish Theological Seminary to be ordained (two years ago), said afterwards: “The community we have here is every rabbi’s dream.” Rivera is a Chaplain Fellow at DOROT in New York City, and teaches Jews of Color, allies and co-conspirators through Harlem Hevruta.

When we gathered for Shabbat dinner, it indeed felt like a dream come true. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who looked like me, families that looked like mine, and children running around and playing together, like it were any other Shabbat. I had to remind myself that it was real, that I there as well, not an outsider looking in.

Together we sang a nigun as we lit the candles, parents held their children’s heads and said the brucha, and Rabbi Mira and Sabrina Sojourner raised the tallit over their heads and called for the children to gather underneath. We sang and celebrated the children, their beautiful faces. We celebrated each other, in their presence our unity, together, as a people. Our skin colors a spectrum, our families all shapes and sizes, our children, smiles, joy and unquestioned belonging.

It was overwhelmingly…normal.
It was perfect.
It was beautiful.

It was feeling that I could not put into words, until a song returned to my memory: Hinei ma tov uma naim shevet achim gam yachad.

“How good and pleasant it is for people to sit together in unity.” How precious was is to celebrate every single person in the room, exactly as they are, white, Black, AAPI,Latinx, and mixed. Orthodox and progressive, Jews by choice and by birth, patrilineal and matrilineal, single and coupled, families and individuals, young and old.

The babies, clueless to the miracle surrounding them, the children, who will not begin to comprehend the sacredness of this space, until they are years older.

And the teens, parents, and young adults like myself, who do know, savoring every note, laugh, smile, and clap, holding every moment tight in our hearts.

Knowing of the looks, actions, questioning, and isolation to come, subtle and unsubtle, as they always have, in which remembering this moment will keep us grounded in our very sanity.

And knowing that we are loved, belonged, and matter. And I know this because I was there, taking it in all at once, living in the moment.

And in that moment, I felt me.
I felt holy.
I felt everything.
I felt home.

 

A special shout-out to Chava Shervington, Tamara Fish, Sabrina Sojourner, Rabbi Mira Rivera, all of the JMN leaders, organizers and volunteers, and everyone else who made the 18th annual JMN retreat possible. Thank you for helping create such a meaningful and transformative experience for so many individuals and families seeking a brave, inclusive space, for the past 18 years. Thank you to the many individuals not mentioned here, who offered your listening ears and hearts, genuine selves, support, trust, friendship, and open arms.

A Racial Justice Shabbat Dinner with Michael Twitty

Shabbat dinner naturally has a lot going for it. The food (challah! matzo ball soup!), the singing, the camaraderie, the chance to truly rest and enjoy friends and family after a long week – it’s hard to improve upon. But one recent Shabbat dinner held in Atlanta, Georgia last week stands out from the pack.

On November 11, Repair the World hosted a #TurntheTables Shabbat dinner as part of our time at Facing Race: A National Conference – a multiracial, intergenerational gathering focused on racial and social justice. We had spent time at the conference engaging with and learning from community organizers, educators, interfaith clergy members, and other leaders of the racial and social justice movements, and it was time to rest and recharge.

Michael Twitty As night fell and the Shabbat candles were lit, more than 100 people joined together around the table (or rather, many tables!) for dinner, discussion, and a conversation with culinary historian and writer, Michael Twitty.

Twitty focuses much of his scholarship on the history and culture behind African and African-diaspora cuisines, as well as on the idea of “identity cooking” – his theory about the way people construct and express their complex identities through food. As a Black Jewish man, Twitty often writes about his own experiences melding the, as he writes on his website, “histories, tastes, flavors, and Diasporic wisdom of being Black and Jewish.”

With the results of the national Presidential election just 3 days old, he spoke about the commonalities and distinctions between the Jewish and Black experience as minorities in America, and the critical importance of loving and protecting one another as full and complex human beings.

During dinner, guests were also prompted to discuss questions around the table like, “Where are you coming from in your racial justice journey?” which gave them a chance to get to know one another on a deeper level. The dinner closed with an alternative take of the Birkat Hamazon – or the grace/thanks traditionally said after meals in the Jewish tradition. The words of the blessing said it all:

“Giving and receiving we open up our hands / from seedtime to harvest we’re partners with the land.
We all share a vision of wholeness and release / Where every child is nourished and we all live in peace.”

For more information about Repair the World’s #TurntheTables Shabbat dinner, check out the article in the Atlanta Jewish Times, read through the dinner guide Repair the World created, and listen to Twitty’s speech in full.

Repair Interview: Leah Lizarondo of 412 Food Rescue

From the vegetables that rot in our crisper drawers before we cook them, to the uneaten sandwiches that get tossed at a coffee shop at the end of the day, Americans waste a lot of food – nearly 40 percent of the total food supply. Meanwhile 1 in 6 people do not know where their next meal is coming from. Those numbers did not add up to Leah Lizarondo and Gisele Fetterman, so they decided to do something about it in their home city of Pittsburgh.

Their organization, 412 Food Rescue, works to recover un-sellable but perfectly good food from retailers, restaurants, caterers, and universities (among other places) and deliver it to organizations that help to feed people in need. Meanwhile, they empower nearly 1,000 volunteers to make a real difference in the lives of their neighbors.

Repair the World’s Pittsburgh Fellows have partnered closely with 412 Food Rescue since its founding. Now, we are excited to share their work with you. Here, co-founder Leah Lizarondo (pictured at right, with Repair the World Fellows Max and Lydia) talks about creating the “Uber for food rescue,” why ugly vegetables are the next frontier of closing the food gap, and the role that faith communities can play in advancing food justice.

What was the inspiration behind 412 Food Rescue?
We started in direct response to the disconnect that we as a society waste 40 percent of the food supply while 1/6 people go hungry. We work on the retail end of the supply chain, where surplus happens on a daily basis. In aggregate, the food wasted by grocery stores, restaurants, universities, coffee shops, and other retail locations represents the largest source of surplus food aside from our own homes. We partner with the retail locations to pick up their surplus and match the food available to non-profits that serve people who are food insecure.

Right now in Pittsburgh we partner with 150 retailers and 200 non-profits, and have 900 volunteers signed up. In our second year of operation this year, we will rescue 1 million pounds of food.

How do you coordinate the food rescues to make sure they are getting to the right place?
We work dynamically to match every food recovery to the right place and make sure the food is useful to the populations the organization serves. We don’t just drop off food without finding out from our partners if its an appropriate delivery. For example, if we recover 2 dozen bagels from a bagel shop, we are not going to drop those off at a housing facility that serves 200 people. Instead, we might drop them off at a shelter that serves 12 people. We are working on creating an intelligent algorithm that will do this matching for us. And in a couple of weeks, we will be releasing an app that coordinates our volunteers by sending them notifications of food rescue opportunities near them.

Tell me about the Ugly CSA.
The Ugly CSA is another one of our programs that tries to tackle food waste at the farm level. About 20% of food waste happens at the farm and manufacturing level. As a society we have these cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables that aren’t realistic, and lot of the produce that is grown at farms is discarded because it doesn’t match those standards. We created a new market for farmers to sell their “ugly” produce at a discount through CSA shares. We launched this past summer with a local farm alliance and sold 40 shares, and plan to scale it up this year.

What are different ways that volunteers get involved in your work?
95% of our volunteer force is dedicated to food recovery. People can sign up to be a “food rescue hero,” which means they pick up surplus food and deliver it to one of our non-profit partners. They are basically like an Uber for food rescue. We have a partnership with Zipcar, which allows volunteers to get a car for an hour for free if they’re doing a food rescue.

Another way volunteers get involved is through our Hidden Harvest program, which just launched this fall. Volunteers help to glean unpicked fruit from private and city trees around Pittsburgh. This fall, volunteers harvested 1,500 pounds of fruit that otherwise would have gone to waste.

Can you share a story of 412 Food Rescue’s impact?
Because we are a nontraditional organization, we can partner with non profits that might not specifically be hunger organizations, but that serve populations that are food insecure. One of those organizations is the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh. We are the first providers to bring food directly to their residencies. Because of the work we’re doing, their residents know where their next meal is coming from – they know they can expect food at a scheduled drop off.

Can you describe your partnership with Repair the World?
I met Zack Block, who runs the Repair the World community in Pittsburgh a few years ago when we were working out of the same co-working space. At the time I was writing for an online magazine, and I wrote about Repair the World when they launched here three years ago. At the time 412 Food Rescue was in its germination stage, and I knew they’d be an instrumental partner in getting our organization off the ground. When we were about to launch, I got in touch with Zack and asked for the fellows’ help in recruiting our first volunteers. Repair the World’s fellows played a big role in getting us started, and continue to make a significant difference in our work of recruiting and retaining volunteers.

What role should religious organizations and faith communities play in food justice work?
I think a lot. As we have demonstrated with Repair the World, outreach to faith based organizations is instrumental to what we do. The common thread between all religions – whether you belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque – is a base message to do good. We offer an easy way to plug in and do that.

Life After a Repair the World Fellowship: Ariel Wexler

Last month, the current class of Repair the World Fellows held their final closing circles and said so long – but not goodbye! We’ve been incredibly inspired by their work as change makers during their fellowship year, and are excited to keep up with them in the months and years to come.

Here’s Ariel Wexler who was one of Repair the World’s Food Justice Fellows in Pittsburgh. She took some time to share the impact she was able to have on others over the course of the year, and the impact the fellowship had on her. Read on, then find out more about becoming a Repair the World Fellow.

What drew you to being a part of the Fellowship?
At UC Santa Cruz where I went to college, I became extremely passionate about environmentalism. My main focus was on the complexities of the food system and practices of sustainable agriculture. Growing up in a strong Jewish community and being fascinated with the history of the Jewish people I decided to minor in Jewish Studies. I thought that the Repair the World fellowship would be the perfect combination of both my interests in food justice and the Jewish community.
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