A Life of thinking globally, acting locally, and seeking peace internally.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fighting Poverty with Faith.. Can there be an End to Poverty?

Last month, I attended a lunch meeting on behalf of WISDOM (interfaithwisdom.org). We were about 25-30 people across diverse backgrounds, (the most well-represented faith was Jewish) that came together to discuss fighting poverty. It was part of a series of nationwide events to highlight a path to poverty reduction and economic recovery, which was led by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Catholic Charities. We (WISDOM) are now part of an alliance of at least 34 organizations, which include Hindu American Foundation (hafsite.org) of which I am a member, and Hindu American Seva Charities, (www.hinduamericanseva.org) of which I am on the Board.

Rebecca Salminen Witt, the director of Greening of Detroit, greeningofdetroit.com, came and talked about the past, present and future of the organization. The Greening of Detroit, is a 501 (c)(3) not for profit organization, established in 1989 to guide and inspire the reforestation of Detroit (the primary form of urban agriculture when she started there a few years ago). Their latest strategic plan reflects commitment to a clear sense of direction that will guide the organization's development over the next five years. A new vision was established, expanding The Greening's mission to guide and inspire others to create a 'greener' Detroit through planting and educational programs environmental leadership, advocacy, and by building community capacity. Their new motto - "Growing our future: from peas to trees."

Greening has tree planting programs, educational programs (e.g., how to extend the growing season - currently 51 weeks), serve as a human network (about 6K volunteers a year), a source for materials (tool banks), a source for empowerment (85 gardeners sell their produce under the "grown in detroit" label and 100% goes back to the gardeners). They help over 1000 gardeners produce 200 tons of food annually. Greening also has a pilot program that provides 2 oz of fresh fruit per week in school lunches - this is indicative of the fact that the demand for locally grown produce is much more than what is available. The "grown in detroit" folks have even been contacted by Walmart. At Romanowski Park, they have a farm that works with OW Holmes elementary school which incorporates cultural diversity to grow some of the foods from the home countries of the community. They have a workforce development program in partnership with Proliteracy, and a Garden Resource Program with MSU, DAN and Earthworks Garden.

Greening currently has 24 professional staff, and thousands of volunteers. While there is currently of lot of (vacant) land, some people are committed to rightsizing the city. They are currently seeking help in the following ways:

* Call your congressional representatives about the clean energy bill
* Donate
* Volunteer
* Hire a team from their workforce program 313 237 8733 - more info at Greeningofdetroit.com

Someone from DTE Energy Gardens was there with a brochure - much of the info is here: www.dteenergy.com . DTE Energy in partnership with Gleaners Community Food Bank, is helping feed the hungry with produce grown at the DTE Energy Gardens - more than 100 acres are being held for future sites to Gleaners for farming and community gardens that supply food to the hungry. There are 8 DTE Energy Gardens located at DTE facilities in Allen Park, Auburn Hills, Birmingham, Detroit, Farmington Hills, Plymouth Township, South Lyon, and Southfield. So far this year, the gardens have produced over 17,500 pounds of food.

More info on the national initiative can be found at www.fightingpovertywithfaith.com

This initiative ties in to a movie recommendation I recently got from my "famous Uncle Ralph" - The End of Poverty, www.theendofpoverty.com

Both the sites and the movie are definitely worth checking out as we head into the Thanksgiving season...

Faith can be a solution to the problem. We need to make it happen.

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