Yes, I love the long rows of lettuces, broccoli, and more, at the Chattahoochee Nature Center's Unity Garden urban farm (and the constant new supply of transplants being grown in the greenhouse), 100% of which is donated to those in need (pictured is from when I volunteered this past Tuesday, which is my final week for awhile because of something new and exciting, about which I'll tell you soon).Yes, I love our big community garden (where two tons of organically-grown produce have been donated in just two years) and my new Plant a Row at my home garden, and all the other "growing" efforts to help provide fresh, healthy food to those in need. And these are good efforts, but food pantries are considered providers of emergency supplies, and true food security requires a whole lot more. As included in my book right near the beginning: Food security means all people have access to culturally-appropriate, nutritious food at all times without relying on emergency supplies.
If you are not interested in doing a Plant a Row, or if you want to go beyond that effort to increase local food security, some other ways you can get involved to improve food security (and more) where you live include:
1. Helping to eliminate " food deserts ." These are neighborhoods where people simply cannot find healthy food. Sometimes elimination of this designation for a neighborhood is as simple as finding a way for the local bodega to carry fresh food, or having a fresh food truck circulate the neighborhood a few times a week with affordable produce for sale. Ask what's happening where you live to eliminate food deserts and you may find a small (or big) way to get involved--making calls, signing a petition, introducing folks who can help each other.
2. Helping to change your city's zoning and ordinances to encourage food resiliency. Something as simple as planting public fruit trees could literally change a city's food security long-term, as can allowing backyard chickens and front-yard gardens, enabling SNAP benefits (and doubling them through Wholesome Wave) at farmer's markets, and composting "green waste" (which could provide local jobs) and making it available to schools and citizens so they can grow their own food more affordably. See more ideas in my book on pages 138-139: How to Help Where You Live Be a Model Urban Agriculture City.
3. Learning about the United Nations Right to Food . See how policy change globally and nationally can encourage and support local food security.
4. Showing up and doing what needs doing. The number of volunteer hours needed each day or week by your local food pantry is astronomical, and the variety of tasks is endless. You can pack and stack boxes and bags of food, help a local food waste gleaner collect bread from supermarkets or leftover food from catered parties or farmers markets (FYI: here in the United States, the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act provides legal protections that enable people to donate food this way), participate in fundraising drives, offer your professional services (tax preparation, website development, marketing services, you name it), or simply answer phones, stuff envelopes, or help set up for the food pantry clients. These are ways to understand your local situation more and then see how you can get involved with other initiatives (that may not even be related to food) to make a measurable difference. The original chairperson of our community garden, Rebecca Barria ( meet Rebecca here --gosh, I just got teary looking back at that post) helped start a literacy program for young children at our local food pantry. Every child who comes now can go to a special room (complete with rocking chairs) with a parent to read, and can then choose a book of his or her own to take home.
If you've read this far, you're clearly interested in getting involved or increasing your involvement. Just give it some thought--you'll come up with your own ideas of how you are necessary where you live to help ensure that no neighbor of yours or schoolmate of your children goes to bed hungry tonight. The simple act of forwarding this blog post to others, or copying and pasting the complete series below in your blog could, quite frankly, change the world, as seemingly small actions tend to do.
Thank you for joining me on this six-week journey. It seems so long ago that I joined Fred Conrad of the Atlanta Community Food Bank out there on his urban farm, where a late-season field of sunflowers were just opening their arms to the sun, and where he asked me to encourage you to open your arms to the national Plant a Row for the Hungry effort. Yet , here we are. The seeds we planted, literally and metaphorically, have grown. And together, we have taken positive steps forward, even if it has just been to grow awareness.
Want to be part of a global community of gardeners? Check out my friend Roger's site at Kitchen Gardener's International . (And don't miss his TEDx talk on that link, or the fact that Roger had a thing or two to do with Michelle Obama's White House garden. Here is a profile I wrote about Roger before that.)
I have included the links for my Operation Plant a Row 2012 series below. It will also continue on the bottom of this site for ease of future reference as well. So, if you haven't gotten your Plant a Row in yet and the first shoots of springtime come up and you hear a little voice in your head saying, "Wasn't I going to do a Plant a Row this year?" you can easily refer back to any information you might think helpful.
All the best to you. Please let me know how it goes.
And, as always, I am . . .
Learning as I grow,
The Operation Plant a Row 2012 Series (written by Pattie Baker ) Introducing Operation Plant at Row 2012 (Resulting from Patience, and My Complete Lack of It) Operation Plant a Row: Choose a Method and Get Going (Growing) Operation Plant a Row: "I Smell the Time" and It Is Now Operation Plant a Row: More Starfish. Mas Semillas. Operation Plant a Row: "If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail"
Operation Plant a Row: Someone Near You Needs to "Water on Wednesdays" Operation Plant a Row: How You Are Necessary (The Grand Finale, Or Is It?)