Thursday, February 23, 2012

Growing a Community Through Food - Food Revolution Blog!

Here is the student blog published on Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution site:

Feb 2012
Story by Sicily

We are a non-profit private school just starting out, a one-room school house on five acres. My mother is our teacher; she started HoneyFern in 2010 when she saw that kids need experiences and a voice in what they learn.

Growing A Community Educated On Food

As we started the second half of our first year, we started to look around for community service opportunities, eventually finding Pastor Leonard and Hollydale United Methodist Church right down the street. Recognizing our common desire to help our community, even though HoneyFern is a secular school, we started running Hollydale's food pantry a year ago, helping families with a no-questions-asked food donation twice a month, relying solely on pantry items donated by church members and other people in the area.

Hollydale's congregation is a very low-income one; 90% of students at the local elementary school are on free or reduced-price lunch, and the church assists them as well with a brown paper sack of food every Friday, too (so they will definitely have some food over the weekend).

Many food pantries have two problems today: they are a never-ending supply of food, and they are a never-ending supply of (often) low-quality food. Every week we see the same people, if people know that they will have a constant food source for free, they may not try to supply the food for themselves. But sometimes the food they are being supplied with is extremely unhealthy. If we want to try and help people eat healthy at home, why are we giving people horrible food? Pastor Leonard also realized that all food given out is usually boxed, and filled with preservatives, additives, and all kinds of sugars. In the long-term, this didn't seem like we were helping our community at all.

At the end of 2011, HoneyFern met with Pastor Leonard and talked about the idea of helping without hurting; what could we do in our partnership that would take the people of the community out of their 'crisis mode', which is ultimately self-destructive and limiting, into a self-sustaining place of helping themselves?

We realized that opening the food pantry was a good idea if we just want to put a Band-Aid on the wound, but it was not great if you wanted to heal the wound. In this conversation we discussed the idea of starting a community garden; in this way we can either educate people how to grow a garden at home if they have space, or they can come to the garden and have a plot of their own, with support and education to start providing for themselves. We have decided to try to get fresh herbs and vegetables on the plates of the people who come to our food pantry.

Planting (and eating from!) a garden relaxes your mind and body. Eating healthier benefits your body because it builds strong bones and gives you less of a chance for blood clots, and it just makes you feel more alive. You have more energy to do things, and personally it makes me feel happier. Growing a garden is healthy for your mind, too. While you are weeding weeds you are also clearing your mind of weeds and focusing on one thing. You forget about car payments and mortgages and focus on the garden, the plants getting stronger in the sunshine and the good you are doing for yourself and your environment.

We hope to educate people on healthy eating so they can take that home and make healthy meals for the entire family; although we do not live in a food desert, the people in our community have limited incomes and many have fallen into the pattern of dollar menus and cheap meals in boxes, some of which we have provided through the food pantry. Although we will not give up the food pantry, as it does provide immediate food aid and relief to people who are truly in crisis, we feel that the community garden is the direction that will sustain and grow our community, long term.

This is our Food Revolution: helping bring healthy eating to those who are less fortunate than us. We hope that our gardening 'plot' (no pun intended) will help our community get back on its feet and gain independence in the world.

This is our first spring, and we are ready to break ground on a new beginning for our community; won't you come with us on our journey?

About the author:
Sicily is a 6th grade student at Honey Fern School.

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