Mar. 14, 2011
Community Contact Information:
Los Angeles, CA
To tackle economic justice concerns in the community by ensuring that the food banks’ shelves are stocked with fresh, organically-grown vegetables
To engage the congregation’s religious school students and encourage gardening and environmental awarness after high school graduation
To work toward “zero waste” as a congregation
University Synagogue members planted a food-producing community garden with the help of religious school students and other congregational volunteers. All produce was donated to a local food bank.
The program was developed as a partnership between the congregation’s rabbi and social action committee. To build a base of volunteers and activists, fliers were distributed and parents and youth were consulted and asked to help. The project leadership soon realized there was a big buzz around gardening and healthy eating, so they latched onto that buzz to market the program in the larger community.
The project required about $700 in startup costs and participants donated organic soil and helped build the rasied bed boxes for the garden.
The garden requires watering and tending multiple times a week. Synagogue members of all ages – from religious school students to empty nesters – have come out to work in the garden and share in the harvest. As they do so, they are learning about local and seasonal eating, the environmental impact of their food choices and the work that goes into food production.
Religious school students are leading the way by tending the garden through the summer months, joining garden projects at their colleges after high school graduation, and working toward “zero waste” religious school meals where food waste is composted into high-nutrient soil for the garden.
The garden team donated nearly 200 pounds of organic produce (from beets to zucchini) in the garden’s first nine months of production; the team plans to expand the garden in the future. Synagogue members are also working to coordinate a “sustainable food fair” featuring local gardeners, food justice advocates and other experts.
The congregation’s rabbi has led the community in embracing their garden as a space to learn and talk about economic justice, community-building and environmental sustainability.
The synagogue also plans to start a project titled “Corners for Justice,” in which congregants will pick up seeds from the synagogue and plant food for the pantry in the corners of their home gardens. It will be a way for synagogue members to have their own personal gardens of justice.