Getting to Know Your Community Food Security Resources

Sharon January 13th, 2009

We’re never going to be able to do it alone.  That is, none of us can hold back hunger in our towns or cities by ourselves.  None of us can ever store enough food to feed everyone – heck, most of us with reasonably wide circles of friends and relations probably can’t even store enough for them.  The only option is that we put food security on the radar at every level, from the personal to the neigborhood, to municipal, state and federal.  But that, of course, is a big project, and not one that will happen overnight.  So where do we get started in working on food security?  We talked last week about bringing the subject up with friends, family and neighbors.  This week, I want to focus on bringing it up at the community/city level and what kind of existing institutions might aid you, might already be doing this work, or might be hijacked errr… encouraged to help bring community level food security to the table.

Quite honestly, the very first step is to get to know your community and its institutions.  If you are already very involved, this won’t be a big deal.  But, if, for example, you are new in town, or have been too busy to get engaged, now is the time to see what’s out there.  In a tiny rural area like mine you may be able to find the entire community organization structure by going to one town meeting, whereas in a large city, you may have dozens or even hundreds of organizations and programs to work with. 

Some of the organizations you might want to look for/look into are:

- Food pantries and Soup Kitchens (these people are on the front lines of dealing with hunger in the community and may have some suggestions about what’s needed).

- Food Coops or buying clubs (if you don’t have any of these in town, this might be a good place to start with bulk purchasing)

- Poverty Relief Progams (these may have existing rubrics you can work with, grants available, or you might be able to talk to them about potential ideas)

- Zoning and Land Use Committees (if your area limits front yard gardens or chickens, they are the folks to talk to – and they may have control over empty lots and public space that could be transformed to community or food pantry gardens, edible orchards, etc…)

- Schools – they often have land that could go to school gardens, would welcome participation in food production, and offer an important access point to getting agricultural and food education into the general populace.

- Emergency Planning Programs – your town or city probably has to have some kind of strategy for dealing with a crisis or emergency – you can bring up issues of food and water here.  This is the beginning point for getting that water pump or putting a reserve of basic foods aside for an emergency.

- Gardening clubs and cooking clubs – these are people already dealing with the issue of food production, and can often be encouraged to take up new issues.

- Churches, mosques, temples and civil social clubs like Lions, etc… – These organizations usually have charitable programs and an interest in working with the community – they can start local food storage programs, make use of open greenspace and expand existing programs.

- Town water management groups – these are the people that will ensure you have safe water that comes out of the tap.  They are a great resource to tap.

 I think one of the most important things about this is that you remember two things.  First, don’t assume too much.  It is easy to assume that the garden club is all old ladies and their lilacs - maybe it is,  old ladies can kick ass sometimes, and a lot of them lived through tougher times than we have.  Don’t assume no one in your town’s organization cares about hungry folks – they may just be overwhelmed. 

 Second, remember that the reality of working in a community is that when you identify a problem, the next sentence will be “great, why don’t you….”  That is, be prepared to get to work on whatever project you care most about.  If you can’t do it yourself, come with help in mind, or talk to other people.

Ok, more on exactly what we can bring to our community meetings, and what we might shoot for.

 Sharon

12 Responses to “Getting to Know Your Community Food Security Resources”

  1. Emilyon 13 Jan 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Some folks, especially in the east and midwest, might also still have access to the Grange – the original rural community resource!
    http://www.nationalgrange.org/about/states.htm

  2. Throwback at Trapper Creekon 13 Jan 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Emily, you stole my thunder, our Grange has a gleaning
    program and runs a food bank. It is a great voluteer
    effort and helps many people from a large area. The
    volunteers pickup past-dated foods from grocery stores.
    What is unusual about this particular food bank is that a
    large portion of the food is organic.

  3. Sharonon 13 Jan 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Thank you guys – I can’t believe I forgot the Grange, one of my favorite institutions ever!

    Sharon

  4. Annieon 13 Jan 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Great idea, I know I will be talking to my extended family about this. Last year was my first attempt at a real garden behind our house, I was learning so it wasn’t great, but it was a start.

  5. shoshanaon 13 Jan 2009 at 5:07 pm

    another one might be your nearest cooperative extension service. -Shosh

  6. KathyDon 13 Jan 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve made up my mind to do “guerrilla gardening” in my county. I’m going to take a bunch of butternut squash seed and plant them all over the towns and countries. I’m going to bring my kids with me and we’ll do it together.

    I got the idea from my little kids watching “Higglytown Heros” where they replace Johnny Appleseed with Butternut squash guy. I thought- hey we can be the ones planting squash all over. I’ll put official looking sticks next to them so they don’t get weeded away. Rural cemetaries could be a good place.

  7. KathyDon 13 Jan 2009 at 5:33 pm

    To be on topic about local community food security… I sit on the county emergency preparedness task force and we are focusing on local food self sufficiency. I was amazed that this group was so adament about local food. One of the project may turn out to be creating a butchering coop — where we all just gather for a day to butcher– since the nearlestt USDA inspected facility is about 80 miles away and require two trips (i.e. 320 miles).

    I’m also working with our food shelf to get a fruit tree planted in the yards of every
    student in our school district’s elementary school. (150 kids) We just got a Horticulture student from the University to help us with this project. What’s cool is that this is a project from the FOODSHELF. It’s a give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime type of things.

    I’m thinking that community education classes might be the way to go. Maybe even having an afternoon clas on household and community food security (with a more catchy name of course!). Also, I would like to have a community ed class that is on “how to shop at our coop.” I think people are intimidated by the bulk sections. Maybe even give them a gift certiciate for coming to the class.

    Here’s another idea for getting double duty with my charitable dollars. My donations to the
    foodshelf includes gift certificates to the local volunteer run coop. That way we can maybe get new customers and people have access to organic and whole foods from the foodshelf…

    Wow! Did I have too much espresso :-O ?

  8. Pratimokshaon 13 Jan 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Re: your last point about being prepared to get involved yourself when you suggest something needs to be done, Robert Newman makes the same point in his hilarious one-man standup comedy act History of Oil – he kept suggesting to his newfound anarchist friends all the things that needed doing, and they kept looking at him funny until he figured out he shouldn’t wait for them to act on his suggestions, but rather that he should just get on with organizing it himself and they’d happily join him to help. They never wanted to tell him that though (as it would be hierarchical for them to correct him), so it took a while before he cottoned on.

    For anyone interested in this very funny reinterpretation of modern history as a struggle for power fueled by oil, you can find the video at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4779697496133297566, but I’ll also try to embed it here:

  9. Pratimokshaon 13 Jan 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Ah well, embedding didn’t work – just follow the link :)

  10. Pratimokshaon 13 Jan 2009 at 7:09 pm

    Darn it, I managed to put a comma into the link. The correct link should be http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4779697496133297566

    Sorry for spamming the comments! (If I knew the syntax for inserting a blush emoticon, I’d use it now…)

  11. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Getting to Know Your Community Food Security Resources We’re never going to be able to do it alone. That is, none of us can hold back hunger in our towns or cities by ourselves. None of us can ever store enough food to feed everyone – heck, most of us with reasonably wide circles of friends and relations probably can’t even store enough for them. The only option is that we put food security on the radar at every level, from the personal to the neigborhood, to municipal, state and federal. But that, of course, is a big project, and not one that will happen overnight. So where do we get started in working on food security? We talked last week about bringing the subject up with friends, family and neighbors. This week, I want to focus on bringing it up at the community/city level and what kind of existing institutions might aid you, might already be doing this work, or might be hijacked errr… encouraged to help bring community level food security to the table. [...]

  12. shoshanaon 14 Jan 2009 at 10:33 am

    @Pratimoksha,
    That Robert Williams piece was brilliant! Thanks for sharing. -Shosh

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