Food for Change: 5 Food Groups Doing Great Work
Editor's note: In Food for Change, we'll profile groups out there connecting people to better food access. They might be community gardens, service groups providing meals, farmers markets accepting EBT and WIC, and in this edition, even a 12-year-old baking birthday cakes for homeless shelters. In this series we want to applaud the passionate people and organizations doing meaningful work with food in their communities. Please share tips for others to include in this column in the comments below.
- Minneapolis-based Appetite For Change takes a novel approach to developing healthy eating habits in families and communities. The group hosts community cooking classes to prepare culturally-relevant and delicious food, accompanied by discussions of food issues and plenty of resources for buying and cooking healthy ingredients. They also offer workshops for parents and children to work on developing healthy habits for young kids. This season, they're working on a few community garden projects to create outdoor spaces for learning about and growing fresh produce.
- Food donations often come in the form of canned goods or prepared foods; produce can be hard to find. America's Grow A Row, a non-profit based in New Jersey, focuses on planting and harvesting produce for donation to local food pantries. The group was founded by Chip Paillex, who donated $3,000 of produce from a small plot in 2002. Over the years, partner farms have joined on to participate in gleaning projects and have donated plots of land just for growing donation produce. In 2010, Grow a Row donated 360,000 pounds of produce—and they're still growing.
- The Massachussetts Outdoor Volunteer Experience connects individuals and organizations with local farms for an hour, a day, or a weekend of volunteer time. TheMOVE brings volunteers to Boston area farms, and concludes each work experience with a discussion to put the farm labor in context and connect the volunteers to the process of growing and eating food. Members of theMOVE receive discounts to local farm events and join a community of willing volunteers in their area.
- Denver is a great place to find groups of motivated people seeking sustainable solutions to pressing environmental issues. The city's UrbiCulture program is finding ways to provide fresh food to inner-city residents at a manageable cost. UrbiCulture's Yard Angels program turns front lawns, back yards, church plots, or school grounds into productive gardens that grow food for the community. The group also runs a sliding-scale cost Community Supported Agriculture program, and donates food to shelters for displaced women and children.
- Another group in Denver is creating organic and sustainable alternatives to conventional soils, farm inputs, and fertilizers. Waste Farmers focuses on composting, and on producing biochar, worm castings, and potting soils for consumers. The team also works with schools, restaurants, and other food service operations to help them learn to compost for themselves.
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.