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Food for Thought: Workshops at Food Justice & Sustainability Weekend

This week we welcome a guest blog post from Marcia Z. Nelson, who is studying for her Masters of Divinity degree from the Earlham School of Religion and assists with our Winter Farmers Market program as an opportunity to learn public ministry as a Quaker and to serve God, the Earth, and the community.

Ever feel the need to clone yourself in order to be in two – or more -- places at once? That would have been a handy super-power for a day of workshops that were part of the 7th Annual MLK Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend held January 15-17 at KAM Isaiah Israel in Chicago’s Hyde Park-Kenwood neighborhood.

KAM Isaiah Israel

From urban composting to choosing food to improve your mood, local sustainability experts, activists, and business owners provided information, answered questions, and provoked conversations about what to grow and eat, how to grow it, and how to understand access to nutritious food as an issue of public health and social justice.

Grandma’s garden as a source of good food was a clear memory for a number of people at a workshop led by Doriane C. Miller, a doctor who is the director of the Center for Community Health and Vitality at the University of Chicago. Changes in modern food production have made food cheaper but not necessarily better: 51 percent of adult Chicagoans are overweight or obese. Bad cheap food adversely and disproportionately affects community health in the city’s economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. More kids in neighborhoods like Englewood and Roseland are obese than in neighborhoods like Norwood Park, Miller said.

Lorena Lopez holds up a tomato!
Lorena Lopez holds up a tomato!

Eating more nutritious food as a means to a better and healthier life can happen in a number of ways, but one of them is simple: learning how to cook is one “back to the future” solution. Use grandma’s recipes and expertise. Socializing at the table – sharing meals with friends and family – is also good for body and soul and not hard to do.

Gardens are sources of food for critters other than humans, and other workshops furnished ideas for cultivating natural spaces where beneficial insects could thrive along with garden veggies. Trees and shrubs native to Illinois like Juneberry and blackcurrant can support birds, bees, and butterflies. They can be the backbone of healthy, life-sustaining gardens that yield tomatoes for people, nectar for butterflies, and berries for insect-eating birds. That kind of organic harmony reflects and supports God’s creation.

Faith in Place has lots of ideas — and support — for different kinds of gardens that faith communities can cultivate. Check out the native plant and vegetable gardens or rain gardens that your faith community can grow with the support of Faith in Place.

And while you’re dreaming of breaking ground for gardens this spring, we’d love to see you at our Winter Farmers Markets which support local farmers and provide nutritious produce in the depths of winter. Join us in dreaming – and eating!

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