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Rededicating Ourselves to Helping The Environment and the Poor During the Holiday Season

By Guest Blogger Maggie McCarthy,  JEI Environmental Intern

 

The winter months provide several occasions for celebration. Hanukkah is the festival of lights and celebrates the victory of the Jewish people over religious persecution.  The secular New Year is a time for reflection and renewal.  Though we find ample opportunity for gratitude during these holidays, many in our local community struggle with hunger and poverty. These issues result from, not only a lack of resources, but also from the mounting environmental crisis. Tumultuous environmental conditions around the world make nutritious and eco-friendly foods more difficult to obtain. During this time of celebration and rest, let us also strive to sustain our local environment and, by extension, serve those in need.

Despite the widespread nature of hunger and adverse environmental conditions in St. Louis, there are several avenues for service and change. Here are just a few of the many ways you can make an impact, both during the winter holidays and year round:

  1. Reduce waste through recovery and donation.  There are several ways to cut down on waste. For example, if you have any fruit trees in your yard, call a gleaning group to harvest your fruits to donate to a local food bank. If you’re hosting a party with catered food, save the inevitable leftovers and donate them.  Partner with your school or work cafeteria to ensure that unused food makes it to a food pantry. Individuals or businesses who donate food items to local food pantries are protected from any possible liability under the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
  2. Grow and donate produce in your own garden. Find plants that thrive in your local climate and research proper seasons for harvest. Start small with a single plant and work your way out from there. Even the slightest changes in food consumption contribute to a healthier ecosystem. Consider donating excess produce to a local food bank.  Not only will you save money on your own food items, you will also reduce food waste and supply for the needs of others in the community.
  3. Volunteer at a community garden. If you don’t consider yourself a green thumb, find a community garden near you and give your time. These gardens often provide produce to poor communities. Consider the “Garden of Eden” on the Jewish Community Campus. These raised garden beds are located near the former outdoor pool at the Jewish Community Center. Their produce will be donated to the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry.
  4. Make a charitable donation. Rather than donating items that a food pantry may or may not use, give funds. Food banks and other non-profits also depend on monetary donations and grants to sustain their services. Because they purchase food in bulk and at discounted rates, they can obtain necessary food at a fraction of the retail price. Charities also depend on monetary gifts in order to sustaining the overhead costs of their organizations. Monetary donations allow organizations to use funds where they are most necessary, thus better servicing the community.
  5. Support Local Farms. Individuals in poor communities often suffer the harmful effects of pollution. In purchasing from a local farmer, you support sustainable farming practices and protect the living conditions of individuals in underprivileged areas.In purchasing produce and other goods from local farmers, you can reduce food waste and excessive transportation costs. Supporting area farmers bolsters local economies and makes healthy, organic food more readily available.
  6. Promote local food policy. Effective change often begins with policy. Advocate for access to nutritious food in your community. In addressing food system needs, you can support sustainable farms, food access, and social justice. Strong local food systems bolster the economy and provide greater resources to the community.

 

 

Gail Wechsler is the Director of Domestic Issues/Social Justice at the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. She is the staff person for the Jewish Environmental Initiative (JEI), a committee of the JCRC and a part of the JCRC's Bohm Social Justice Initiative.
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