Sometimes I think it can be easy for us to forget how fortunate many of us are and why we need organizations like the Food Bank. This week I had the pleasure of attending a three day conference in Tucson titled Closing the Hunger Gap. The conference was made up of three parts:
1. Visiting existing programs
2. Learning and brainstorming about issues relate to hunger relief including policy change and nutrition
3. Planning actions we will take over the next year to make a change
On day one I went with a group to see a school, soup kitchen, farm and home garden.
The school was amazing! Everyday the kids are involved in the operation of the school garden and sustainability program at the school. They grow fruits and veggies, raise chicken and tilapia, compost, collect rain water and host a farmers’ market. Incredible! The outcomes are just as amazing from increased attendance and parent involvement to better understanding of math and overall academic improvement. I encourage you to check out www.goManzo.com to see all the amazing work the school and community are doing.
At the soup kitchen I was again blown away and honestly I wasn’t expecting much here. Terrible I know but I thought I’ve seen soup.kitchen and know what good works they do. What could I possible learn here? Well, this soup kitchen not only feeds people everyday (except thanksgiving and Christmas – because “everyone else wants to do that”) but every afternoon they spend working on community organizing. They are working on keeping bus fares from increasing knowing the people they serve absolutely cannot afford even a five cent increase. A crossing guard was needed so families could safely cross the street to get their food and the community organizers at Casa Maria helped make that happen. It’s amazing how a group of community members can affect so much change. I think we forget the power we have.
Next stop on our tour was the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona’s farm. Community plots are available for families and groups. The food bank also grows food for their services, but the farm is more than that. It’s a place for the neighborhood to gather and to continue a tradition of farming that has been taking place there for thousands of years. One gentleman spoke about how he brings kids on probation to the farm and what a difference that make in their lives. The host potlucks and workshops. It’s an outdoor community center for that neighborhood.
Finally we went to the home of a man who is growing food in his front yard to provide for his family. The food bank helped by providing education and starter plants. Also he sells some of the produce on consignment at the food banks farmers market.
This blog post doesn’t do justice to what I saw last month. Amazing work being done in a community that not only needed help with food but also help remembering how to be a community. They are being given space to gather and learn as well as the tools to affect lasting change in their community. I think this is something we should all think on.