Midtown Muse

Wiggins: Inter-Faith Food Shuttle sees programs grow

August 18, 2013 

There’s a saying that “energy flows where attention goes.”

In Southeast Raleigh, there’s a collective energy flowing with a focus on food.

And, while it’s taking root from the ground up with efforts like the Fertile Ground Food Cooperative, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle is helping stir the proverbial pot with tools to help us feed, teach and grow.

Last Tuesday, IFFS was a first-time co-host of a meeting of the Fertile Ground Food Cooperative, a grassroots effort to address Southeast Raleigh’s dearth of healthy, affordable food by creating a community-based food co-op.

About 40 people attended the first Fertile Ground community meeting in June. More than 70 attended last week’s gathering at Chavis Community Center.

“The energy was just really high,” said Zulayka Santiago, a Fertile Ground co-founder who also works with IFFS to ensure its urban agriculture program is community-inclusive. “All too often, institutions that are white-led swoop into communities and dictate how things will happen. Not only are folks ready and hungry for this type of work, but the way it’s trying to engage the community is also being warmly received.”

The next Fertile Ground community gathering will be a hands-in-soil working meeting at IFFS’ Hoke Street Garden.

“What we’re seeing in Southeast Raleigh is this grassroots, community-led movement, which is really what brings about change,” said Lara Khalil, the IFFS Urban Agriculture Program Manager. “Institutions have a role to play and resources to commit, but when it comes from the community, it’s sustainable and it’s unstoppable.

“That’s what I’m seeing in Southeast Raleigh,” Khalil said. “It gives me goose bumps.”

Check out what else is happening now:

BackPack Buddies

On Wednesday, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle BackPack Buddies program will collect healthy food and funds to fill backpacks with nutritious weekend meals for children to ensure they come to school nourished and ready to learn.

BackPack Buddies, which began about seven years ago, provides six balanced meals and two healthy snacks for children every weekend during the school year, or year-round.

We can drop off our contributions of non-perishable, healthy food from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. in front of Macy’s at Crabtree Valley Mall, or in front of Old Navy at Crossroads Plaza in Cary.

Since 2010, the number of backPacks distributed has risen from 600 to 1,700 per week, said Kia Baker, who oversees IFFS’ Food Recovery and Distribution.

Last school year, at its 55 sites in Wake, Durham, Orange, Chatham, Edgecombe and Nash counties, BackPack Buddies fed 1,687 children each week. That’s a distribution of 59,175 BackPacks filled with 355,050 meals, or 710,100 pounds of food.

The program relies on sponsorships by corporations, civic groups, churches and individuals.

It costs $350, or $35 a month, per 10-month school year to provide a child with a BackPack of nutritious meals. For $420 in sponsorship, a child can get a BackPack year-round, Baker said.

“The need is growing quite substantially,” she said. “Right now, there are over 119,000 children in our service area who qualify for this program. While we think we’re doing a great job reaching 1,700, which is commendable, we have so much more work to do.”

Micro-greens workshop

On Saturday, the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s urban agriculture educator, Maurice Small, will lead a workshop to teach us how to grow micro-greens, using potting soil or a soil-less growing medium.

We’ll get to take home a tray of our own, too.

The workshop will be from 9:30-11:30 a.m. at the IFFS Hoke Street Training Center at 500 Hoke Street, off Garner Road. The cost is $25. There is, however, a sliding scale, and work-trade options are available, so no one will be turned away because of an inability to pay.

Workshop attendees will learn how to grow and prepare their own micro-greens, which are the young sprouts of vegetables such as lettuce, beets, arugula, mustard greens, sunflowers and Swiss chard that can be harvested after the first leaves develop.

The workshop is an extension of the training program Small runs at Hoke Street that includes 2 1/2 acres of on-site urban and community gardens, as well as smaller plots on Martin, Coleman, Stevens and East streets.

“The momentum is long overdue,” Small said. “But the people who get it, get it, and never go back. Communities that get it, get it and never go back, and it grows and grows and grows.”

ldrwigg@gmail.com

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