Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi
This is the last of a six-part series giving brief summaries of the BGR projects approved at the board’s annual projects meeting on May 4th. The first five parts of this series described the nineteen international projects approved by the board. This final post describes the four U.S. projects that were approved. Thanks are due to Patti Price, chair of the Projects Committee, along with Jessie Benjamin, David Liu, Carla Prater, and Jennifer Russ, who all helped prepare the material used in this series.
20. Detroit: Building Oases in a Food Desert NEW
Detroit is known as a “food desert” where residents have to travel twice as far to the nearest grocery store than the closest fast food or convenience store. Keep Growing Detroit aims to promote food sovereignty in the venerable “motor city,” so that more fresh fruits and vegetables will be available to Detroiters, grown by residents themselves within city limits. The organization also aspires to foster healthy relationships between people and the food they eat, to increase knowledge of food and farming, to cultivate community connections, and to nurture leadership skills among Detroiters.
BGR will be entering upon a first-time partnership with Keep Growing Detroit, supporting a project that seeks to expand options for local food production by making available resources and education opportunities. The two objectives of the project are: (1) to support 1500 family, community, school and market gardens by distributing garden resources, and (2) to host 25 classes reaching 500 residents and provide information about basic gardening, farm and business planning, hoophouse construction, cooking and food preservation. BGR funding will go toward the purchase of seeds, plants, a greenhouse, and cooking and teaching supplies.
21. New York City: Reaching Youth Starved for Meaning
The Reciprocity Foundation was established in 2006 to address the plight of homeless youth in New York City. In 2012, when they found that the homeless students were arriving hungry and unable to focus, the RF team started a vegetarian meal program called “Starved for Meaning.” Meals, prepared collectively and served “family-style,” with a moment of gratitude before the meal, fulfilled the students’ hunger for community, dialogue, and meaning. Last year, with the help of BGR funds, the number of meals doubled and there was an increase in the number of youth coming to the center for food. In a questionnaire about the program, 100 percent of the youth said that their life improved as a result of the meals, they felt a greater sense of belonging, and they felt more optimistic about their life. Over the next year, BGR funding will help the Reciprocity Foundation to increase the capacity of the vegetarian meal program for homeless youth in NYC and expand the food program to reach young people living on the streets. Annually renewable project.
22. New York City: Community Garden Plots in the Bronx
The Urban Community Food Project (UCFP) was started in 2011 as an initiative of the Urban Rebuilding Initiative. Its mission is to build a sustainable food system throughout New York in order to fight poverty and resultant food insecurity. UCFP’s farms are located in the 16th Congressional District of the US, an area that has the lowest median income and the highest rates of unemployment and incarceration in the nation. UCFP works with at-risk youth, young adults, and formerly incarcerated men in local neighborhoods to convert urban spaces into food production sites. The food grown on these sites is donated to neighborhood food pantries and homeless shelters.
The BGR grant will help the Food Project to fulfill its goals for 2014–15, which include: (1) developing four inner-city farms that will produce 5,000 pounds of produce for local food pantries and soup kitchens; (2) introducing a new fitness program called “good food and fitness go hand in hand”; and (3) offering regular workshops on sustainability, urban farming, green technology, and civic action. Annually renewable project.
23. Home Gardens for Low-Income Families in Santa Clara
Surveys indicate that one-quarter of Latino and black communities in Santa Clara County, California, live in poverty. Since 2009, the need to serve hungry children has increased 35 percent. Valley Verde seeks to increase self-sufficiency and healthy eating across Santa Clara County by cultivating organic gardening skills and leadership among low-income immigrants and people of color. By helping to develop organic home vegetable gardens, it aims to create productive, healthy, and sustainable communities. To date, Valley Verde has enabled 140 families, including more than 400 children, to cultivate home vegetable gardens.
Over the next year, by cultivating organic gardening skills,Valley Verde plans to increase self-sufficiency, reduce food insecurity, and develop income tools for up to ninety low and very low residents in San Jose and Gilroy. The team will also pilot a seed germination project among 7-10 experienced gardeners. BGR funds will go to purchase seedlings, materials for raised beds, starting kits, and irrigation equipment for this program. Annually renewable project.