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Food Justice and Sustainability Program
Mar. 10, 2011
Creation of a food-producing community garden to provide for neighbors in need and educate congregants about food justice and sustainable land use.

Community Contact Information:
KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation
Chicago, IL
www.kamii.org

Goals:

  • To partner with the congregation’s neighbors, secular and religious, to grow, glean and donate significant amounts of fresh, healthy food to those in need
  • To promote better, healthier land use by transforming unproductive, urban, congregational lawns into sustainable food producing gardens
  • To educate about the importance of equal access to healthy food and sustainable land use and teach others how to replicate the healthy food/sustainable land use model, leading them to advocate for those in need

Overview:
KAM Isaiah Israel created a community garden to provide for neighbors in need and educate congregants about food justice and sustainable land use. The project includes three organic food-producing gardens, donations from the garden to area soup kitchens, educational community programming and community outreach.

Preparation:
In February 2009, the congregation’s social justice committee held a meeting to discuss how to “green” the synagogue. From that meeting came the idea to transform the synagogue lawn into a Star of David-shaped food producing garden. The first season’s harvest was shared with the congregation.

The Food Justice and Sustainability Program is used to advocate, educate and bring awareness to issues of environmental responsibility and access to healthy food. In August 2009, the committee expanded its efforts by identifying a pressing, local “solvable” social justice problem that was of interest to many congregants. The problem identified: many people living near the synagogue do not have access to fresh, healthy, locally-grown food.

Solutions developed: What began as a synagogue greening project quickly evolved into a food justice and sustainability program.The food grown in the Star of David garden was distributed to the synagogue’s neighbors in need. After developing this successful model, KAM Isaiah Israel congregants began teaching others how to construct food-producing gardens

Project Implementation: 
The project has four components:

  1. Three food-producing organic gardens on synagogue property were constructed to grow food for soup kitchens and a shelter
  2. White Rock Gleaning Program: collects the food left unharvested at a local, large community garden. Plot holders place a white rock in the northeast corner of their plots to signal to synagogue volunteers that they can collect any ripe fruit from that garden on Sundays to donate.
  3. Crop Mob Construction: an assemblage of local volunteers who can be summoned on short notice to help the synagogue transform urban, congregational lawns into food-producing gardens based on its replicable KAMII garden model
  4. Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend Education and Advocacy Program:  The program teaches others how to start food gardens and provides an educational and advocacy food justice and sustainability forum. KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation partner with local experts on food justice and sustainability issues.

Sampling of Annual Calendar of Events:

  • January:Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend Education and Advocacy Program
  • February: Begin planning growing season.
  • March: Kick-off to growing season, seed workshops with local church, food justice programs
  • April: Development of local interfaith council
  • May: First gleaning/donation of the year to a local soup kitchen, utlize the Crop Mob Construction crew to expand gardens
  • Summer: Gardening, volunteering in soup kitchen, youth and community education programming
  • September: Introduction of White Rock Gleaning Project in partnership with two largest community gardens in the area. Expadned food donations to new local shelter for women & children.
  • Fall/Winter: Continue harvesting crops, educational events, begin planning for MLK Weekend program (January 2011 theme: “Local Solutions”)

Results:
Over a period of six months, the soup kitchens and shelters received more than1,200 lbs of organic food from the KAM Isaiah Israel gardens. Throughout the project’s implementation, the congregation formed partnerships with more than 20 secular and religious groups. KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation is now recognized as a leader in food justice and sustainability.

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