Culture, Justice, Politics, Religion

Blogging the Hazon Food Conference–Day 2

I sat in on two excellent sessions this morning, one incredibly inspiring, the other downright terrifying. For more click below

The first session was on the Jewish Farm School. The JFS is chaired by Simcha Schwartz and Nati Passow. It is neither a farm, nor a school (just yet, soon it will be both), but a concept. The concept is simple, bring Jewish education to the farm and to bring the farm to Jewish education. Simcha told me JFS seeks to “bring school to the farm and bring the farm to school,” Jewishly. The JFS is funded by Hazon, but is an autonomous organization. They are serviced, right now, by the Teva Learning Center, ADAMAH and the Kayam Farm at Pearlstone.
My favorite thing that is being done, specifically at Kayam, is the Mishna Gan, a garden planted according to Mishnaic principals (like kilayim, not mixing seeds; and pe’ah, leaving the corners unharvested)
It is an incredible program that I believe will revolutionize the Jewish food movement and Jewish education, alike. The program focuses on urban sustainability, community and individual urban gardening, traditional Jewish agriculture and values, is volunteer based and has some amazing stuff going on. Right now, JFS is engaging 75 students across the country. They do consulting work for institutions and schools, so if you’re an administrator, give them a holler! Soon they will have a home-base (both a farm and school) in the Putnam Valley, outside NYC. Definitely visit their links, they are amazing.
Yesterday, I wrote a bit about the result of our exile on our food knowledge, JFS has the vision and passion to restore that knowledge, and fill us with new knowledge.
Afterwards, I sat in on a session from H. Eric Schockman of MAZON who spoke about the global food crisis. Here are some scary facts:
in 2007, 36.2 million people were food insecure (17.4 million were children), that is 11% of our population. Yet, only 53.9% of those people were registered with Supported Nutritional Assistance Programs (i.e., food stamps). Food stamps are a right since LBJ legislated so. Yet, our system cuts local jobs that allocate the support, they require English language (the problems with that policy are obvious, considering who is usually poor in America). The Bush administration removed the word “hunger” from all federal documentation and surveys, presenting the image that hunger no longer exists in America, when this is clearly not the case. The term is now “low food security,” which frankly does not have the same impact, in my opinion.
America spends, annually, $90 billion on combating hunger (because, you know, it doesn’t exist any more) $14.5 billion to charity (i.e., food banks), $66.8 billion to combat hunger related illness, and $9.2 billion to combat reduced productivity in school and work from hunger. According to Schockman, if we spent 7 cents a day per man, woman and child who is “food insecure,” hunger would be cut in half in ten years time. The Obama transition team contracted MAZON for advise, and has since committed to end hunger by 2015, something Schockman says is very possible. As of today, just 1.16% of our federal budget goes to food security (and how much goes to blowing up people in other countries?)
I asked Schockman three things we can each do as individuals to ease the global food crisis and this was his response:
1. Go into your pantry, take out the NUTRITIOUS non-perishables, and donate them to your local food bank
2. Monitor hunger advocacy, call your representatives and senators and if they are not, demand they add their name to Congress’ “Hunger Caucus”, which is currently painfully small at around 30-40 members.
3. Think globally, our purchases and choices effect trade policy and agricultural development policy. Think before you buy/eat.
More from Day 2 and Day 3 after Shabbos!

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