Archive for : food justice

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.

Tractors over Touchdowns: How One Football Player Became a Food Justice Hero

Football players, like most professional athletes, live glamorous lives. With contracts regularly topping 10 million dollars, they can afford to. But what if one of them decided to give up the cars, the glory, and the worship of thousands of fans to become a…farmer.

Meet Jason Brown. At the age of 29, after spending seven years as a professional football player, Brown decided to trade in his helmet for a bundle of hay. As self-taught farmer (he watched You Tube videos for instructions on the basics and consulted with other nearby farmers), he launched First Fruits Farm – a faith-based agricultural operation that grows food to be donated to food pantries. He has already given away tens of thousands of pounds of food and he has no plans for stopping soon. (If the notion of giving first fruits sounds familiar, it should – it is a concept found in the Torah.)

Brown and his family took an incredible leap of faith to make such a radical life change. Asked on CBS why, he said two beautiful things. The first: “When I think about a life of greatness, I think about a life of service.” And then, “Love is the most wonderful currency you can give anyone.” We kind of love this guy.

In other news, Brown also recently delivered his own baby when his wife went into surprisingly fast labor and the midwife couldn’t arrive in time. So, yeah he’s mensch.

Check out the video for more of his remarkable story.

Food Justice Resources for Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is perhaps the best known Jewish holiday. It’s the biggie – the holiday of repentance when Jewish people across the country head to synagogue, even if it isn’t part of their regular practice. And, of course, it is a fast day. Unlike most other Jewish holidays, which are centered around what to eat, Yom Kippur is centered around not eating.

This ritual fasting is meant to help people focus less on the material world and more on spiritual matters – to purify the body in a way that makes it fit for the work at hand. But it also brings to mind the millions of people around the country and world who fast every day, and not by choice. This Yom Kippur, which falls during Hunger Action Month, take a little time during the holiday to think about food justice on a deeper level. Here are some great resources to get you started:

Isaiah and the Food Stamp Challenge This article, by Rabbi Edward Bernstein draws connections between the words of the Prophet Isaiah on fasting with the contemporary Food Stamp Challenge that many people are taking. It’s a compelling read!

Sacred Table: Creating a Jewish Food Ethic Put out by the Reform Movement, this anthology talks about the connections between faith, food, and justice. There are many fascinating essays specifically related to food justice, but we suggest reading the whole thing.

Food For Thought Hazon’s sourcebook on Jews, food, and contemporary issues would make great reading for Yom Kippur day.

Jewish Perspectives on Food Justice URJ has made available an interesting webinar all about ethical eating and how it relates to Jewish tradition. Download the full recorded session and the Power Point presentation that went along with it.

#TomatoRabbis T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights is well known for its activism around securing fair wages for tomato workers. Find out more about their great work, and download this handout of sermon topics.

Repair Inspiration: Libraries Launch Summer Meal Programs

Public schools have long provided free or reduced price lunch (and in some cases breakfast) programs for students in need. While not a perfect system, these meals make a big difference in making sure all students have access to enough food during the school day. That’s great for the 9 months a year when class is in – but what about the summer? Now, public libraries across the country have started to fill in the gap during the warmer months, providing well-rounded meals to kids that come from low-income families.

Recently, the Huffington Post published an inspiring story highlighting 5 of these lunch libraries. Check out the excerpt below, and read the whole story on the Huffington Post’s website.

Eat Up! 5 Public Libraries’ Successful Summer Lunch Programs
By: Jordan Lloyd Bookey

Last summer, Nina Lindsay was walking through the Oakland Public Library (OPL) where she works when she saw what she describes as “the best kind of trash.” On the floor was a peach pit sucked bone dry. It had been served for lunch earlier that day, and for Nina the image of that pit serves as a reminder of the importance of the library’s summer meals program.

This is not just happening in Oakland. Libraries around the country are starting similar initiatives. During the school year, 22 million kids receive a free or reduced price lunch at school according to Lucy Melcher, the Associate Director of Advocacy for Share Our Strength; but during the summer months, those numbers drop dramatically. Only 1 in 6 of those kids gets that meal when school is out. These programs are designed to change that.

“The biggest challenge we hear from organizations operating the summer meals program is that it doesn’t provide enough options to reach kids in hard to reach areas,” Lucy told me. Libraries can reach eligible children who are not getting their summer meals. “Libraries were a hidden gem. They are a natural place in the community where kids are already congregating during the summer. They have great spaces to provide meals in a fun environment for kids. Libraries are also trusted places in their communities and have the ability to do outreach through schools and other community organizations about the summer meals program.”

Hearing about these amazing programs got me excited and I wanted to hear more. So I spoke with five public libraries about their summer meal sites. It was inspiring to learn what they were doing, how these programs were growing–and especially to hear the feedback from children and families who have benefited. Here are a few of the things they told me:

Finish reading the story on the Huffington Post.

Inspire A Different Kind of High Holiday Service with Repair the World

Summer is in full swing, which means that September – and the High Holidays – are coming up fast. The extended season between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time to look inward and focus on personal reflection and repentance. But it can also be a time to look outward to the world and make a difference.

This year, Repair the World will be thinking about service a little differently during the High Holidays – and we invite you to join us in spreading the message! As part of Hunger Action Month (which also happens to fall in September), we are building a movement of volunteers to raise awareness about food justice, while fostering stronger local food systems, self-reliant communities, and a healthier environment.

That’s where YOU come in! We are looking for passionate individuals and organizations to lead the charge in building this movement. Working together with Repair the world, movement leaders will help organize food justice volunteer opportunities between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (September 13- 23, 2015), host a Turn the Tables dinner, and, most importantly, help Inspire Service.

Think you’ve got what it takes to spark a movement? Sign up to become a Repair the World Movement Leader, and create meaningful opportunities for service for yourself, your friends, and your wider community. Or, do you want to participate as a volunteer? Sign up here and help us build something big!

Repair Inspiration: Masbia Soup Kitchen

Since 2005, Masbia – a soup kitchen in Brooklyn – has been providing hot, nutritious, kosher meals for Jewish families in need and the broader community. In the last year alone, they provided more than 800,000 meals, engaging hundreds of regular and one-time volunteers along the way.

Recently, Masbia got some much deserved love from NationSwell. They write: “Dignified surroundings, and healthy, comforting meals, raise Masbia above the standard, a welcome reminder that seeking help with food doesn’t have to be a gloomy affair.”

Check out their video, and meet their awesome chef, below, then read the whole article over at Nation Swell.

Want to help? Sign up for a volunteer shift or make a donation to support Masbia’s work.

Monday Link Roundup

Happy Monday and day after Father’s Day. Hopefully you spent the day relaxing with family and friends. Now, to get your week started off right, here’s your weekly dose of inspiring links from around the web.

  • The Huffington Post published a touching essay by actress Marlee Matlin about her “father’s chutzpah,” and how his cancer diagnosis a few years ago has inspired her to speak out.
  • Zeek magazine published a thought-provoking article questioning “do we still need Jewish feminism?”
  • JTA published an obituary and tribute to Yelena Bonner, a human rights activist who fought on the front lines for Soviet rights.
  • Jewschool included a post on “Chew on This” – a new food justice series co-sponsored by Pursue, Hazon, Uri L’Tzedek and other organizations, that kicked off last week. Missed the first event? Check out this interview with Nancy Romer of the Brooklyn Food Coalition on Pursue’s blog.
  • j.weekly, on a related note, published a profile on Oran Hesterman, author of the new book on food politics, Fair Food.