A Moment of Reflection

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Current Affairs, Jennifer Gooden, Politics, Social Justice, Volunteering | Posted on 26-01-2009

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by Jennifer Gooden

Occasionally, everything comes together in a way that triggers my reflection and gratitude. I had one of those days today and thought I would share this moment with our Fresh Greens readers.

It began this morning at work at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, where we had the first meeting of our green team. The food bank has already made admirable strides toward energy efficiency and environmental stewardship, including efforts as sophisticated as lighting and energy management systems to practices as hands-on as organic gardening and vermiculture. Still, there is more we can do, and our nascent team met this morning to plan for future improvements. I am so happy to be a part of an organization that has broad vision and an ethic of constant improvement.

Today, Monday, January 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, was also the day that Michelle Obama called upon our country to engage in volunteerism, suggesting we give up our lunch money and lunch hours to donate to and volunteer at food banks. Our building was filled with people today, all helping sort food and assemble backpacks for our Food 4 Kids program. We regularly have volunteers at the food bank—15,000 a year, in fact—but it was a busy day for us and a great opportunity to come together as a community to feed those in need.

Connected to this day of service is a day of anticipation. Tomorrow is the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. I have never seen so many people in our country so full of hope, so aware of the significance of this moment in history, and so proud to be part of this collective celebration of our nation. 

So this day closes with gratitude and optimism. In the spirit of progress and the many ways in which we can come together to craft a brighter tomorrow, I savor this moment and look forward to the years to come.

Braving the Blue Norther

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Bob Waldrop, Community, Food and Drink, Social Justice, Volunteering | Posted on 22-12-2008

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by Bob Waldrop

On Saturday afternoon, I was finishing up the day’s work of coordinating the delivery of food to 300+ low income households. As I moved empty boxes and bags from the U-haul to my pick-up, I was cold. I had on three layers of clothes, two coats, hat and gloves, but even so I was chilled to the bones. I had been in the cold most of that day, and as we all know, the Blue Norther came in early. A stray thought crept into my brain.  “Exactly why is it that you are doing this Mr. Waldrop?” 

I have had that thought before. I remember thinking it one hot August day, in the midst of the monthly Delivery Day of the Oklahoma Food Coop, at our non-air-conditioned facility.

Yesterday, as I thought about the day’s work, I remembered an elderly woman who died a few years ago. We delivered food to her every month for years. On the last Christmas that she was alive, she gave me a card, and it had 2 quarters taped inside. When I opened it and saw the coins, I burst into tears. Here was truly a Widow’s Mite. I have that card and those quarters to this day, and every so often I just take it out and look at it. 

Some would have us believe that there is nothing more to life than greed and selfishness. To those who hold these views, what happens on the Delivery Day of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, or at a Catholic Worker delivery day, would seem almost incomprehensible. Both events  are ecumenical affairs – religiously, politically, socially, and culturally. Many of these volunteers would not ordinarily be in the same room or even necessarily on speaking terms. Yet, we find in these works of social justice and environmental sustainability, common cause,  common ground, and a common hope. 

We do not lack for issues that divide us these days. Indeed, the polarization that grips our politics and economics is deadly for community, but countering that polarization is the growing realization among a diverse group of people that we are all in this together. There’s a name for that feeling, and it’s called solidarity. That’s why fifty people gave up time this past weekend to engage in a little distributive justice. That’s why people come back, month after month, and work hard at the delivery day of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. That’s why, in the midst of all the crises and dooms that confront us, I remain hopeful. The way I figure it, if we can get people to work all day in an un-air-conditioned warehouse to distribute local foods and get people out in the midst of a cold blue norther to deliver groceries to low income people they don’t even know, then there is nothing that cannot be done.

In the midst of the darkness of the growing shadow of Mordor over Middle Earth, the enormity of his task confronts Frodo, and he says plaintively to Gandalf that he wished that these events were not occurring in his time. Gandalf replied, "So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for us to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."

So as the troubles come so fast we can barely keep up with the flow of events, never forget that every moment we can create a future that we will want our children to live in. If you seek a solution to economic and ecological crises, random and deliberate acts of beauty, kindness, wisdom, justice, and sustainability are all good places to start.

Why Food?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chelsey Simpson, Community, Family, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Locavore, Volunteering | Posted on 24-11-2008

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by Chelsey Simpson

With Thanksgiving this week and the Oklahoma Food Cooperative’s delivery day last Thursday, I’ve found myself contemplating a very simple question: Why food? Of all the things in the world to care about, when and why did food become so interesting to me?

I asked myself this question on Thursday as I left the Food Co-op’s Edmond pick-up site after four hours of frenzied volunteering. Even though I completely understand when other volunteers burn out or have more pressing obligations, it would never occur to me to quit or leave early. Why is that?

Or consider the fact that I was really excited about my plans last weekend, which included learning to render lard with my friend and fellow Fresh Greens blogger, Tricia. I’m in my mid-twenties—why I am excited about lard on a Saturday night?

And while we’re at it, why is making a meal plan my favorite Sunday chore? Why am I considering learning to butcher and dress a chicken when I can’t bring myself to kill a spider without asking its forgiveness? Why do I get such giddy satisfaction when I realize that everything on my dinner plate is local?

I wasn’t always this way. I used to buy big bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the big box store just like everyone else. But at the same time, my current obsessions didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. I’m still doing some self-analyzing and trying to get to the bottom of the issue, but these are my best guesses at “why”:

1. I don’t care about food; I care about people.

I have that “Longhouse Gene,” remember? I really like the community aspect of food. I enjoy speaking to people about the Oklahoma Food Co-op through my job as outreach manager, and I love the chaos and camaraderie of delivery day. People are the reason I volunteer time and again. Besides the people I see, there are the people I don’t see, the ones who are able to make more money off their family farm because I am their occasional advocate and food distributor.

On a larger scale, I like food because it’s a universal connector. People come together for food; the kitchen is the hub of every happy household. Even when I am alone, I can conjure comfort with my mother’s corn bread recipe. And because I buy locally, my cupboards are filled, not with eggs and flour, but with the names and faces of people I know, people I think of when I use their products. My husband even asked if we could send a Christmas card to the makers of his favorite product, peanut butter, because he loves it so much, and he wants them to know. That never happened when I still bought Jif.

2. Food is impossible to ignore.

You can blow off the rainforest, the dolphins and even starving children in Africa. You can ignore calls to recycle, use public transportation or spay and neuter your pets. But you have to put at least a little bit of thought into food every day, or else you will die. Not only does the elemental nature of food attract me, it forms the basis for a very accessible obsession. Anyone with a mouth can form valid opinions about food, and if one meal isn’t so great, another opportunity will come along in four or five hours.

3. I have a history with food.

I might have started my adult life buying from a big box store, but there are plenty of things in my childhood that pointed towards conversion. First of all, I grew up on a farm. We didn’t grow anything organic or sell at any farmer’s markets, but I knew where my food came from and fiercely believed in preserving the small-farm way of life. I also had a mother who cooked from scratch and occasionally had a garden. Sometimes we canned things. I’m afraid that if I don’t learn these skills, they will be lost to future generations.

4. Food is fun.

I think my generation of sustainable foodies is sometimes faced with the fun but daunting task of reinventing the wheel. We don’t have to create the process of pasta-making for example, but because most of us didn’t grow up watching our grandmothers roll out sheets of dough by hand, we have to teach ourselves. Discoveries like that can lead to very satisfying moments of “look what I made!” Three-generations ago, making butter was a chore, but for me it is a novelty, a fun craft I really want to try. A day might come when we need to know these things, but for now we can just play.

5. “Food, well … yum!”

Enough said.

Happy Thanksgiving!