Born of Triumph and Tragedy, Social Justice Org Fosters Health Equity and Well-being of Communities of ColorOctober 19, 2016 | Judith Gerber
Though D’Artagnan Scorza grew up economically disadvantaged amidst a food desert in South Los Angeles, his family created an oasis of fresh fruits and vegetables that left him wanting for nothing at home.
“My grandmother grew corn and bell peppers, and grafted trees, though I didn’t know what that was until I got older and began to understand the relationship between food and the land.”
Scorza’s family not only grew their own food, but also cooked it.
“The history in my family is connected to food. My grandmother held food culture high in our family and it has always had a strong place,” he says. “My aunts, uncles, nieces all cook. I cook.”
In Los Angeles, CA, community members involved in the urban farming and food justice movements are keenly aware of the food insecurity that is so prevalent in its South Los Angeles neighborhoods. It was this insufficient access to healthy, nutritious food that spurred Florence Nishida to co-found LA Green Grounds, a volunteer organization that works with residents of South L.A. to convert their front lawns and parkways into edible landscapes and urban farms.
“If you have a garden in the front yard it leads to conversation, and that’s the most important thing,” says Nishida. “The minute you start growing squash, tomatoes, or something people have never seen before, they start asking questions, and that starts the conversation. Those conversations lead to a sense of community.”
Making vegetables a visible part of the community is what has guided LA Green Grounds ever since its founding in 2010.
The Hawaiian Islands possess ideal climatic conditions to support year-round agriculture from consistently temperate weather to ample rainfall and abundant sunlight. Despite these favorable conditions, the islands rely on imports from the mainland and elsewhere for nearly 90 percent of the food that residents consume.
Last month, at the ICUN World Conservation Conference in Honolulu, Governor David Ige announced his pledge to double local food production by the year 2030. To help insure the success of this pledge, the Ulupono Initiative, a Hawaii-focused impact investing firm, has stepped into the fray to provide financial and advisory support to for-profit, non-profit and social ventures seeking to increase food security and production on the islands.
“We are pleased to hear about the governor’s announcement, and want to make it happen through investment means,” says Murray Clay, Managing Partner at Ulupono Initiative. “We are an impact investing firm, with one of the key areas of focus being local food production.”
To Sure Up Island Food Security, Hawaii’s ‘Mahiai Match-Up’ Competition Offers Farmers Land and Seed MoneySeptember 29, 2016 | Jeana Cadby
Before Western contact, Hawaii was able to grow enough food locally to sustain its population. In marked contrast to the past, Hawaii imports approximately 85-90 percent of its food, aspiring local farmers face high barriers to entry due to exorbitant land prices, equipment that must be imported from the mainland or elsewhere, and a lack of sufficient farmer training. Additionally, Hawaii hosts an aging population of farmers, most of whom are a few years older than the national average. This volatile mix of agricultural challenges leaves the state particularly vulnerable if a sudden disruption in food imports occurs.
To help insure the state’s food security, Kamehameha Schools (KS) and Pauahi Foundation joined forces in 2009 to create the annual “Mahiai Match-Up” competition. Its primary goal is to find farmers and help them overcome barriers to entry so that they can tackle food security issues in the state.
Two five-acre urban farms in Columbus, Ohio are offering a hardy mixture of hope, employment and improved food access to underserved community members. The farms, collectively known as the Urban Farms of Central Ohio, are part of a nonprofit, sustainability initiative created by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank to revitalize the neighborhood of Grove City.
Sarah Lenkay, Strategic Projects Manager at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, says that the Urban Farms of Central Ohio initiative is centered on the idea of fostering hope for the community and lasting, valuable education.
“We impact the community by giving new life to another life,” says Lenkay. “We want to serve as an anchor providing for the community.”
The two sites that the urban farms occupy were part of a land access grant given to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank by the Columbus Land Bank to repurpose underutilized properties.
Marking the most recent victory in a growing nationwide movement to promote the legality of seed libraries, The Seed Exchange Democracy Act (Assembly Bill 1810) was signed into law in California on September 9, 2016. The bill amends the “seed law” chapter of the state’s Food and Agricultural Code to expressly exempt seed libraries from onerous seed testing and labeling requirements. While necessary to protect buyers and consumers of commercial seeds, the impracticality of these requirements for community seed libraries would effectively cause them to shutter. California follows Minnesota, Nebraska and Illinois as the fourth state in the last 18 months to adopt laws favorable to seed sharing libraries.
Neil Thapar, a food and farm attorney at the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) in Oakland, California who helped launch and draft the bill, explained how seed libraries work. “Seed libraries are essentially community-based initiatives where people can borrow seeds, plant them, and at the end of the season take back some seeds to replenish the seed stock at the library for other people to borrow.” He continues, “There really isn’t any ownership over those seeds. They’re held and stewarded by the library, but they’re shared freely throughout the community.”
One of the largest diocese in the nation, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles has made food justice a top priority. In 2013, it created Seeds of Hope, a food justice ministry that “provides universal and affordable access to basic nutrition,” says Seeds of Hope Executive Director, Tim Alderson. “In the six California counties that make up the Diocese of Los Angeles, that condition does not exist. Our job is to do what we can to address these issues.”
The idea for Seeds of Hope was conceived when Bishop Jon Bruno was diagnosed with leukemia and admitted for his final treatment at City of Hope. Though not his patient, he met endocrinologist Raynald Samoa, M.D. who was covering rounds. The two men spent over two hours talking about food related illnesses, food access issues and disparities of food health in communites. Dr. Samoa also knew Alderson, who was working on a farm project for City of Hope.
David King grew up in Kansas where, despite being very poor, his family ate very well because they grew their own food on his grandfather’s three acres. This was where David got his first taste of seed saving.
As founder and chair of the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA), David’s been committed to teaching others how to save seeds. He says he was spurred into action to start the library in 2010, when the Obama administration approved GMO sugar beets.
“It was just too much,” he says. “I lost it.”
So on a cold, drizzly day in December of 2010, he held the first meeting of SLOLA. About 45 people showed up, more than he had expected, and 15 of the people who attended that first meeting are still active members today. As stated on their website, SLOLA was founded with the idea of enabling all who live in the Los Angeles area to have access to nutritious, pesticide-free, non-GMO food.