Archive for : New York City

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.

How Did You Turn the Tables on MLK Day?

Pardon us while we kvell for a minute here, but MLK Day weekend was completely awesome. All over the country, people spent the day showing up and pitching in – volunteering in their communities to celebrate the legacy and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Repair the World was no exception. Our Turn the Tables campaign inspired more than 120 hosts and 1,000 guests to sit down for a Shabbat dinner to discuss racial injustices and civil rights. Meanwhile, it gave 700 volunteers an opportunity to plug into meaningful service projects across our five partner communities (Detroit, New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh) and beyond.

Added up, that’s a lot of great minds and even more capable hands, coming together to stand up for justice and strong communities. As participant Rebecca Haskell in Oakland, California commented, “Turn the Tables provided time and space for people to broach a subject that we otherwise wouldn’t and talk about our thoughts, questions, and concerns.” We can’t think of a better way to honor Dr. King’s life and work.

If you joined in one of Repair the World’s Turn the Tables events (or if you did something else amazing to celebrate MLK Day), we want to hear from you! Leave us a comment below, or tweet us @repairtheworld.

Repair Interview: Amie Hamlin from the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food

January is Healthy Living Month here at Repair the World. Stop by all month long for interviews with our favorite health-focused organizations, inspiring stories, and tips to change your life while changing the world.

Walk down the lunch line at an average public school today and you will find plenty to eat – unfortunately, many of the options, especially for the “protein” component, are not particularly healthy. But thanks to organizations like the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food, that is starting to change.

Since 2004, the Coalition has worked to foster healthier school food options for students in New York State and across the country. Their Executive Director, Amie Hamlin, recently talked with Repair the World about how she ended up becoming a champion of healthy school eating, the importance of offering plant-based foods at schools, and the country’s first-ever vegetarian public school.

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Seasons of Giving: Interview with David Weinberger of ioby

Ever heard the term NIMBY? It stands for “Not in My Backyard,” and is used frequently in environmental and social movements to describe residents or organizations that oppose local projects that they perceive to negatively impact them. For example: protesting against wind power turbines that generate alternative energy because they are an “eyesore.”

Imagine if everyone felt the opposite. If we all actively said yes and worked together to help our communities thrive. Enter ioby (or “In our Backyard”), an organization that supports community-led environmental projects by providing a crowdsource funding platform that lets neighbors support local initiatives. Like a community garden. Or a new bike lane or a recycling program. Since its founding, ioby has enabled donors to give more than $600,000 and thousands of volunteer hours to nearly 300 community-led projects in New York City and nationally. On average, donors live 2 miles or less from the projects they support: talk about community giving, and community empowerment.

ioby’s Director of Project Development, David Weinberger, took a few minutes to share ioby’s philosophies and amazing work with Repair the World. Read on!

What was the inspiration behind ioby?
The three cofounders met in grad school at Yale and all moved to New York City in 2007 for jobs in environmental fields. They began to notice that many conversations around environmental issues seemed to center around things that felt remote and far away – like icebergs melting and the plight of the polar bears. They realized that in order to help bring these issues global to the forefront, people had to start locally. So they started ioby, which is the exact opposite of NIMBY. It offers a platform for people people who have a great idea for an environmental project in their neighborhood to raise money via crowdsourced funding, connect with volunteers, and get support behind their project.

A very small percentage of philanthropic dollars end up going to grass roots groups. Money is typically reserved for traditional organizations. That’s important work, but these small, informal groups of neighbors tend to get shafted. ioby builds the capacity for them to raise money, be more self sustaining, and be strong and connected.

How many cities is ioby in at this point?
We started in New York City and went national a little over a year ago. There are projects in 80 cities right now, and we opened an office in Miami earlier this year. We are working with the Miami Dade office of sustainability, partnering on their sustainability plan and helping to connect the office to small, local groups. We were really interested in seeing how ioby would fit into a municipal government context, and Miami has a lot of interesting climate and environmental work going on right now. (Check out ioby’s Miami-based projects.) We are also working with the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team in Memphis, helping to build out the neighbor side of things.

What are the most common types of projects people submit?
A couple years ago, when we were focused solely on New York we would have said community gardening projects were most popular. As we’ve gone national,  we are seeing a lot more projects about infrastructure and transportation. We helped a project in Memphis raise $80,000 to create a protected bike lane. A bunch of members of the community decided to take the revitalization of the downtown area into their own hands. They took paintbrushes and solicited local artists and painted their own bike lane on Broad avenue in Memphis. It became incredibly popular and the city took notice and raised another million dollars to make it official. We worked with Livable Memphis to make it happen.

You mentioned there’s a volunteer component to ioby’s crowd sourcing?
On every project page, there’s a button that says, “inquire about volunteering.” When a project leader posts their project, they can request volunteers. So donors can give money, but they can also sign up to help make a project happen – volunteering on a work day, or in some other capacity. We’ve heard a lot of great success stories about that.

Who can start an ioby project?
Anyone can start a project on ioby. You can either submit a really short form letting us know what you’re thinking about, and we’ll help you take it to the next stage of development. We invite people to join a 30 minute introductory webinar on grass roots organizing, and things like how to set goals. If you’re further along in the process, you can post a full project that includes an itemized budget, what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what steps you envision taking. ioby is already popular in cities, but more and more people in suburbs and rural areas are also reaching out about revitalizing their own downtowns and making a difference.

Got a project in mind or want to learn more about ioby? Check out the video below and visit their website for more info.

College Students for Enrichment in Secondary Schools (CSESS) Serves Middle Schoolers in NYC

I am the co-founder of College Students for Enrichment in Secondary Schools, an organization that brings Harvard students to New York City to run a series of micro-courses on eclectic subjects for 7th-9th graders. (CSESS is supported by Repair the World and the BYFI Alumni Venture Fund). Here is our story:

My Jewish high school extolled two virtues above all others: love of learning for its own sake (Torah lishmah) and a life of service to others. These values in particular, which closely matched the ideals instilled from early childhood by my secular parents, helped me feel at home within the Jewish community when I sought it out in my teenage years – and have continued to inform my relationship with Judaism and the Jewish community ever since.
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