URJ Greening: Training Young Leaders for Food Justice and Sustainability

Training Young Leaders for Food Justice and Sustainability
Reform Judaism
Religious Action Center
by Kineret Jaffe
KAM Isaiah Israel, Chicago, IL
(originally posted on the RACblog)

As noted in our last RACblog post, the Social Justice Committee at KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation has been working for over two years to educate, advocate and provide creative solutions to the pressing problem of inadequate access to fresh, healthy food on the south side of Chicago. We began in 2009 by creating an on-site food-producing garden to provide for our neighbors in need and to educate congregants and our community about food justice and sustainable land use. Since then, our efforts have expanded with the White Rock Gleaning program, Crop Mob Construction volunteers constructing more food-producing gardens in our community and our annual Martin Luther King weekend program on food justice.

This coming summer, we plan to expand our education efforts with a summer training camp for high school students. Our goal is to inspire local teenagers, many of whom have grown up in urban areas where the local store features more unhealthy snacks than fresh produce, to learn what it takes to grow, harvest, distribute, and eat healthy food.

The camp will meet in July and August; each of the two camp sessions will consist of four Sundays. During the five-hour Sunday timeframe, campers will have an opportunity to participate in classes, workshops and hands-on work sessions in our gardens. We anticipate the classes will be taught by clergy from KAM II and from churches in the surrounding community, and will address such topics as Biblical teachings about food, agriculture and the environment, and how different faith traditions approach ethical eating.

We will also invite local experts to lead practical workshops on a variety of topics, including the growing popularity of organic gardens, how gardens help build community, food and economic inequality, urban farmers markets, and food justice and health. Each Sunday campers will also have hands-on time in our gardens, learning how to compost, till, sow, tend and harvest. We would like to end each four-week session with a cooking demonstration and workshop, utilizing that day’s harvest, followed by a festive meal with the campers’ families.

In this inaugural season, we will recruit students entering 9th through 12th grades at public and private schools in the neighborhood. We hope that this camp will meet the curricular requirements for Service Learning by offering a meaningful experience that would allow students to share their talents and time to help shape the society in which we all live.

In future years we hope to expand the program to schools beyond the Hyde Park/Kenwood neighborhood, so that high schoolers from across Chicago and the suburbs can experience the satisfaction of working alongside individuals from different religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds to grow the healthy food that sustains us all. As our Social Justice Committee Chair Robert Nevel is fond of saying, KAM is growing in many wonderful ways – and we are looking forward to a very exciting summer!

To learn more about the summer program, or get involved, please contact me by email.

Kineret Jaffe is a member of the Social Justice Committee at KAM Isaiah Israel in Chicago, IL. This summer she will serve as the Coordinator for the Food Justice and Sustainability Young Leadership Work/Study Program. KAM Isaiah Israel recently won a Fain Award for their food justice program.

Spotlight on Greening Reform Judaism: During the month of April, the URJ is highlighting resources that help our congregations in their greening and tikkun olam efforts. Learn more about Greening Reform Judaism.

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