Feeding the poor the green way
by Michael Thompson, Contributing Writer
Feeding the poor is not usually associated with the green environmental movement. In fact, a frequent lament is that low-income households cannot afford higher-priced organic items.
Photo: (c) Lyn Lomasi
Detroit's Capuchin Soup Kitchen is doing something about this dilemma. The 2-acre Earthworks urban farm is producing 6,000 tons of healthy fruits and vegetables.
"Our food system is broken," says Lisa Richter, an Earthworks spokeswoman. "At the same time, people are craving to reconnect with the land, and to reconnect with their community.
"One of the big misconceptions about Earthworks is that we just grow food. We're trying to inspire food system change, to reach the root causes of hunger and poverty."
Volunteers from the neighborhood help out, including Youth Farm Stand students who receive lessons regarding what urban farmers describe as "sustainable agriculture." Eight neighborhood residents receive training stipends for regular work through the Earthworks/Capuchin Soup Kitchen partnership with the Gleaners Community Food Bank, and through the Southeast Michigan Equitable Agriculture Training program.
"It's an inspiration for us to show what is possible with small-scale agriculture, and through increasing accessibility to safe, healthy food," Richter says.
The Earthworks urban farm demonstates that green activists aren't just college students and young urban professionals. They can be found everywhere.
Capuchin Soup Kitchen was ahead of its time in 1998 when Earthworks was established. At the time, Detroit had about 60 community farm gardens. The number has exploded beyond 800, says Mayor Dave Bing. Bing says farm gardens can provide a three-way boost in food security, community spirit and economic development. Green-collar jobs most commonly are associated with alternative energy, bur urban farms also create employment potential.
"Earthworks has always been a labor of love, founded on the Franciscan vision of universal sister and brotherhood of all creation," states the Earthworks website. " We hope that this humble effort of love and desire to reconnect ourselves with the natural world we inhabit will remain part of the beacon of hope for all peoples and for all times."
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