October 9, 2016

The Shalom Park Community Garden – Temple Beth El

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Temple Beth El and four other Jewish organizations on Shalom Park in Charlotte, NC came together in 2015 to launch Shalom Green, the Shalom Park Environmental Initiative and created the Shalom Park Community Garden as a key component of the initiative. Shalom Park is a 54 acre campus, which is home to two synagogues, a Jewish Community Center, several schools, and a number of other Jewish agencies. The goals of Shalom Green include reducing the carbon footprint of buildings and operations on Shalom Park, providing environmental education, and sparking community-wide conversation about and action toward environmental sustainability. Temple Beth El and its Shalom Green partners needed a central, collaborative project, which would provide opportunities for environmental education, connect congregants with the natural world and serve as a visual reminder of the community’s broader sustainability efforts. The Shalom Park Community Garden provided a perfect solution.

As a result of these efforts, an unused lawn was converted into a functioning outdoor classroom and organic garden. Volunteers built ten raised beds for vegetables, whose yield will be donated to a local meals on wheels program, and several in-ground beds, which contain plants of Jewish significance, such as pomegranate and fig trees, herbs and grape vines. All soil, seeds, plants and fertilizers are organic, and irrigation for individual beds was designed to minimize water usage. Plants were selected and placed to offer opportunities for lessons in organic gardening, pollinators, companion planting and natural pest control. Lessons in the garden combine practical instruction in organic gardening techniques with a discussion of Jewish environmental values and larger issues related to living sustainably and protecting the planet. In its first months, the garden engaged youth from from synagogue religious schools and youth groups, the Charlotte Jewish Day School, the Charlotte Jewish Preschool and a Jewish Community Center Teen Camp in environmental learning. Future plans include educational opportunities for families and older adults as well. More than 150 young people and adults participated as students and volunteers in the inaugural season of the Shalom Park Community Garden, and spring and summer gardening seasons will bring opportunities to engage and educate even larger segments of the Shalom Park population.

The obligation to preserve the earth for future generations is deeply rooted in Torah and Jewish tradition; yet, being good “stewards of Creation” is not always easy and is not always foremost in our minds. Temple Beth El was inspired in our efforts by a congregant, who said the thing that keeps him up at night is his concern about the future of our planet. They were inspired by the shared enthusiasm of Jewish organizations across Shalom Park for the opportunity to learn about and implement changes to make our congregations and community more sustainable. And they were inspired by Judaism’s profound respect for and connection to the natural world to bring Jews of different affiliations and Jews of no affiliation together in pursuit of our common environmental values. By participating in Shalom Green and the Shalom Park Community Garden, Temple Beth El is working to focus the congregation’s attention on the critical need to protect our planet, with the goal of creating meaningful changes in the way we live our lives as individuals and as a congregation.

Temple Beth El entered this project into the Cool Congregations Challenge.  If you have a great project going on at your congregation enter it into the 2016 challenge an you could win your congregation $1,000!

 

October 7, 2016

Ugly produce. Food not trash

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How often do you go into the grocery store and marvel over the gleaming array of perfectly sized and shaped fruits and vegetables. What happens to all the produce that does not look as nice? In America, 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables grown don’t fit grocery stores’ strict cosmetic standards — the crooked carrot, the curvy cucumber, the undersized apple — usually causing them to go to waste.

About 25% of produce is wasted in the U.S. before it even reaches the grocery store! This is mostly due to strict cosmetic standards from large grocers that dictate exactly how their fruit and veggies should look. This equals about 20 billion pounds of good, healthy produce left uneaten because it doesn’t look pretty! If produce fails to make the grade for size, shape, or color it’s deemed  “ugly” and unsellable.

There is a movement happening in this country that is getting us to rethink the way food should look. We are resisting the idea that to be nutritious food has to look beautiful. Not only that but the 20 billion pounds of nutritious but ugly produce can be used to feed the almost 50 million people are food insecure and almost 90% of us (over 270 million) are not eating enough fruits and veggies in the U.S.

There are ways we can make ugly produce a desirable product instead of an unwanted outcast. Stop Food Waste’s The Ugly Fruit and Vegetable Campaign has pushed large food chains like Whole Foods and Walmart to sell produce that does not fit industry standards. Support the stores that are selling the ugly produce and send emails to the stores that are still rejecting produce.

Look for local farmers and CSA that sell ugly produce. For instance Imperfect Produce, a subscription delivery service, sources from farms with produce that would be thrown out for cosmetic reasons. If we support programs like this we can stop billions of pounds of fruits and vegetables go to waste on farms across the U.S. per year.

Faith groups have taken up this food waste issue. In August Bethel Lutheran Church in California celebrated Ugly Food Month. They dedicated time during service to speak about why we should celebrate ugly food and ended their month with a potluck of ugly food dishes.

Jordan Figueiredo at the @UglyFruitAndVeg campaign they list more ways we can help reduce food waste by educating and changing policy around ugly food

  1. Everyone – Buy It and Talk About It
    Purchase imperfect (sometimes “ugly”) fruit and veg: at the farmers market, though a home delivery service like those above, at supermarkets or wherever you can find them. Talk about the issue and share your “uglies” pics with your friends and the world at my various @UglyFruitAndVeg social media accounts.
  2. Grocers – Sell It and Educate
    a. Put more pressure on our nation’s grocers to accept responsibility in this matter. You can do this here.
  3. Schools – Buy It and Educate
    a. We need our students, our youth, to eat more fruits and vegetables, right? What better way than to educate them to love ugly and save money while their school buys cheaper, but imperfect, fruit and veg! In many ways, produce shaming is parallel to body shaming and bullying – we should be teaching our students that produce can be imperfect and still beautiful.
  4. Governments – Support Farm to Food Bank
    You can also ask your state government if they support farm to food bank programs (or if they can start such a program or support them further).

 

 

 

 

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October 6, 2016

Cool Congregation Gardens – Cornerstone Edibles Small Farm

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Cornerstone Edibles Small Farm is a project of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples Florida.   Their mission is to help each other interact with creation and community by building a new Eden. The goal of their farming is not only the raising of crops but the cultivation and sanctification of human beings. Their community-oriented garden and grove is the land that supports our farm-to-table agriculture, nutrition education, and faith-rooted initiatives. Proceeds from their community vegetables, herbs and soon to be tropical fruit sales support this valued community work.

Their challenge was to create a working, educational, organic vegetable garden. Within 2 years they created a small size farm where they are now planting 30-40 vegetables, 90 tropical fruit trees and 20 herbs. Propagation, grafting classes and tree identification are offered weekly.

Proceeds are distributed on a weekly basis during season to church members after both services, to their local community and laborers based upon need not want. A monthly gathering in the field “Farm To Table” potluck is a perfect opportunity for the unchurched, marginalized and friends of Cornerstone Edibles to join them for a meal and conversation.

Check out a video about their program

 

 

Cornerstone United Methodist Church entered this project into the Cool Congregations Challenge.  If you have a great project going on at your congregation enter it into the 2016 challenge an you could win your congregation $1,000!

October 5, 2016

Iowa IPL’s Food • Faith • Climate program

Our food choices are connected to climate change. When we sit down to dinner, we may not think about global warming, but as much as one third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are connected to our food system.

Each of us, at every meal, can make a real difference that ensures a more climate-friendly food system. Fortunately the ethical choices are also pleasurable choices that will improve the health of the planet and our bodies!  Iowa IPL’s Food • Faith • Climate 90-minute workshop provides you with tools for Connecting the Dots in your home, congregation, and community.

We look at how our food practices contribute to climate change, and how our faith traditions call us to respond with practical solutions. Then we examine our own food practices and create a plan for more climate-friendly actions. Each workshop also features the opportunity to get to know the local farmers who provide a tasty sample of their wares.

In Feb of 2016, 100 people attended the Food • Fatih • Climate workshop in Dubuque, Iowa at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Presentation. Young and old alike delved deep into discussion about the connections between our food practices and climate change, and examined their various faith traditions’ statements on the topic. All enjoyed the many booths of local food providers and tastes of fresh, local food, including local honey. It was a sweet event!

Here are some comments by Jake, a college athlete participant:
I learned that one very simple way to cut down on foods with a more negative impact on the climate is to consider taking part in Meatless Mondays! I know that not long ago, I would have thought that not eating meat for a day was ridiculous. I’d heard of fellow students on campus advocating for others to join them in committing to beginning their week without meat. I think my issue was simply: Why? What will that change? I am a person who needs to know why I am doing something before I do it.  After learning the positive impact that Meatless Mondays can have on the climate, I am convinced that a small, small change on my part can make a difference and I’m glad to do it.

Everyone went home with a personal action plan in hand to post on the fridge to remind them of their pledge to reduce their carbon foodprint. And Jake of course, pledged to eat vegetarian on Mondays!

Read more about the program in the Iowa IPL site

 

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October 4, 2016

Feast of St Francis

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Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of one of the most loved and popular saints, St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is know for his love and care for all of God’s Creation and is the patron saint of animals and the environment.

On November 29, 1979, Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis the Patron Saint of Ecology. He said “As a friend of the poor who was loved by God’s creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honor and praise to the Lord. The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.” For a man of his era, a time when they did not have a word for environmentalist, he was the embodiment of the idea of Care for Creation.

Today we honor the works and care he had for the animal kingdom by reflecting on how our food system and our food choices affect the climate. More and more people are concerned about where our food comes from and how eating meat affects the climate.   For some people that means becoming vegetarian but for many others it is about making conscious choices about when meat is eaten and where it comes from. They don’t give it up completely but choose eat a little less meat and get healthier. We have substantial amount of choice now when it comes to choosing local, organic, and humane options.

According to a 2015 Chatham House Report “Changing climate, changing diets”, people in industrialized countries consume on average around twice as much meat as experts deem healthy. In the US the multiple is nearly three times. Adoption of a healthy diet would therefore generate over a quarter of the emission reductions needed by 2050!

Factory farms have shown to be a huge impact on our environment and our climate. According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, including 37 percent of methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions. The methane releases from billions of imprisoned animals on factory farms are 70 times more damaging per ton to the earth’s atmosphere than CO2.

The good thing is now we have many alternatives. There are wide ranges of socially responsible, small-scale farms that produce locally. This alternative produces high-quality food, and supports farmers who produce healthy, meat, eggs and dairy products using humane methods.

Today on St. Francis Feast Day think about how you an make a few changes that will make us and our Earth a healthier place. We can make a difference we just need to take the first steps. In the words of S. Francis “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

The Cool Harvest Potluck Kit will help you find delicious, sustainable dishes with limited meat and animal products.

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