In Brief Fresh—Not Canned—Food for the Needy August 2, 2008 Waldo Jaquith 4 Comments CYFS is distributing left-over produce from the farmer’s market at Westhaven. Great idea!
4 thoughts on “Fresh—Not Canned—Food for the Needy”
Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. This kind of handout is why so many in our area feel disempowered, helpless, hopeless. and patronized. Public and subsidized housing residents are growing and harvesting fresh organic vegetables EVERY DAY at QCC’s resident-named Garden of Goodness at Sixth and Monticello and the Barrett Early Learning Center which feed low-income folks not only from Friendship Court, but also Sixth Street, Crescent Hall, Prospect, 10th and Page, Westhaven, newly arrived refugees and residents at local group homes and several other locations. Neighbors are delivering food weekly to sick and shut ins, and providing rides for those who do not live nearby. Besides the veggies, we are enjoying the sunshine, learning about the environment, building community, cooking, trading recipes, riding bikes and creating sustainable change–not only in eating habits, but in how we view ourselves and what we are capable of. Let’s stop equating poor with helpless.
Karen I agree that we must teach individuals to help themselves, but I don’t see the harm in giving leftover produce to people who need it. What would you have rather them done with it?
People often joke about how America is the one country where you can be both poor and overweight, but this phenomenon is actually a symptom of a much larger problem: it is extremely expensive to be healthy in this country. Many poor and blue collar families cannot afford healthy foods, let alone fresh, organic produce. It is much more realistic for these families to buy a ten-pack of Ramen noodles than to spend that same dollar on one apple. This distribution of fruits and vegetables may be the only time some of these families every have access to these types of foods that provide essential nutrients without all of the additives and sodium you find in canned foods.
This proverb rings very true in many instance, but you must remember that it doesn’t apply to all circumstances and that sometimes there is a preliminary step to “teaching a man to fish.” You don’t go to a starving man who is extremely deprived of nutrients, shove a fishing rod in his hand and tell him to fish when he can barely hold his head up. Instead, you make sure the man’s basic need is met first so he doesn’t parish and then teach him how to provide for himself. This does not have to be an either-or situation. Why can’t you feed the man first and then teach him how to fish?
This is not an “either/or” situation. If poor people can use fresh food in excess of what is grown in community gardens, then it is a plus that it is being distributed to them.
The gardens you describe are truly something to be proud of.
This is certainly a plus, but not a sustainable means to the end of improving the health status of the disadvantaged. Exercise and stress reduction are two benefits enjoyed by city market shoppers and backyard gardeners denied to those not encouraged to make the effort. It certainly doesn’t have to be either-or, which is why we promote the Charlottesville Food Project which distributes still-fresh produce to those in need immediately following both the Wednesday and Saturday markets. (434-202-0603) Food not Bombs also regularly gleans produce and serves it up the very next day at Tonsler Park. Further, I have no problem with delivering vegetables to those who could not otherwise obtain them, which is something the residents at Westhaven and the other neighborhoods we serve already do for one another simply because it is neighborly. Spend some time in public housing, and it’s not hard to discover the patios planted with tomatoes, cabbages, peppers and more that residents are proud to show and tell about. My point is merely this—waste is never good, but neither is duplication of services, or reinforcement of deficit thinking.
What would I have the farmers do with their leftover vegetables? Invite low income people to come after the market and CHOOSE what they would like–they are right on the free trolley line and within walking distance. Better yet, how about ASKING them what works, sharing with another farmer, or adopting a family (or two or three) to feed?
Long before eating local became a fad-like luxury rather than a necessity, and before urban renewal razed the front yard farms of Vinegar Hill removing them from view to birth Westhaven, poor people were raising their own food as well as their own children.
We non-profits are at our best when helping folks to recall their ability to do these things, which means doing WITH and not FOR them, as demonstrated by CYFS’s wonderfully successful history of providing first-class parenting and childcare assistance. Band-aids are best for cuts and scrapes, not gaping wounds like food insecurity, economic injustice, and health disparities. They’re not bad, but just won’t get the big job done.
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