Thursday, March 24, 2016

Food, Plants, and Humans!

Hello humans of the earth!! It is us, Nur & Lupita. We sit here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin - eating a bag of lettuce with chili powder in our apartment; we have a great view of a place called "Bro-yo." We also have a beautiful view of 7-Eleven *Beyonce starts playing*

So far, this week has been incredible! Today was our last day at Growing Power. We started off the day doing hard work in the cold. Not only was it cold, but there was some form of precipitation falling from the sky -- rain?? snow??? sleet?? slush?? ice?? hail?? It doesn't sound too fun, but trust us, IT WAS! The people at Growing Power are great humans and our group is very fun to work with so it was not too bad. WE GOT TO WORK IN GREENHOUSES AND BE SURROUNDED BY PLANTS, HOW CAN WE COMPLAIN? It wasn't easy leaving the people of Growing Power. They treated us like family and working with them is something we will always remember. They showed us what it means to be a community and the importance of food. We ended our service with them with a tour of their warehouse! Mr. Will Allen greeted us there and we got to see what Growing Power is beyond farm site. 

Today, we also did service at Saint Ben's. It is a place that provides people experiencing homelessness and poverty hot meals and other necessities. We had the opportunity to serve 324 people of all ages and clean up the space. We also got to sit down with some of the community members and have good conversations with them! We were surrounded by kind hearted, inspiring, and appreciative people that really made us realize how important it is to do what you can to help out our community.

We are looking forward to working with Victory Garden Initiative tomorrow! 
Peace to all you wonderful humans,

Nur & Lupita 

(Shoutout to Merry for cutting up this lettuce) 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

23 March: Growing Power & St. Ben's

Our second day at Growing Power involved moving a truckload (literally) of kale and having a rainy day in the greenhouses. Shoveling produce in thirty four degree weather reminded us that even when weather is bad, work still needs to get done. The volunteers at Growing Power have not only resilience but a sense of connection with each other. This reminded us of how much food brings people together no matter their walks of life.

Will Allen acts as an inspirational figure. He provides a role model for many young African American men and women in the ways he inspires people to work their hardest no matter the adversity they're thrown into.

We volunteered at St. Ben's this evening by participating in their Community Meal and sitting and speaking with members of the homeless/low income population of Milwaukee. This experience was eye opening for a majority of our catalyst group. It pushed us out of our comfort zone by allowing us the opportunity to hear the stories of people who experience poverty and hardships. This made us realize the privileges we take for granted in this life. This experience forced us to go beyond the stereotypes we are socialized to have about the homeless.
We engaged in conversations that shifted our perspectives and helped us see the reality of this community and pushed us to empathize with those who we would not usually connect with or go out of our way to have a conversation with.

Overall, today has been a highly emotional day and for some, transformative. It reminded us why we are on this trip to begin with and understand the roots of social change.

You'd be surprised by the difference one conversation can make.

-Azar and Amanda

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday, Day 4

We all started out our morning groaning a bit about how sore we were from our tough work yesterday at Growing Power, but nonetheless we headed on to Victory Garden Initiatives for our second day of work!
Victory Garden Initiative's mission "builds communities that grow their own food, creating a community-based, socially just, ecologically sustainable, nutritious food system for all."
We kept this in mind as all twelve of us went out on the streets of the Bayview and Shorewood neighborhoods and handed out flyers about the Victory Garden Blitz and general information about the nonprofit. While there today we also spent time with Alysse and Kelly who gave us background on VGI and how this vision of community gardens has been received by the Milwaukee area.  In addition to that we also helped sort plant, vegetable and fruit seeds that were donated to VGI. We ended up sorting through these seed packets by ten. Overall it came out to 180 bundles!  These will be donated to people who sign up to receive a garden through their organization.

During reflection this evening, we discussed the difference between a service trip versus vacation. We had a good conversation about this. We also had a social justice art gallery, where we put up pictures that represented different topics that intersect with food justice.

We were then asked questions about these different pictures: our thoughts, our opinions and what challenged us when we looked at them. We were encouraged to think about why this activity was important to food justice and how it intersects with race, poverty and the work that we are doing.

We are excited to get back to work tomorrow at Growing Power and have orientation at St. Ben's.  We kindly thank our community partners at Victory Garden Initiative for having us help at their organization.
Keep checking back for more updates!

~Joseffa and Jenna E.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday, Day 3

After waking up earlier than we liked and getting a bit lost, we finally found our way to Growing Power. 
Growing Power is an organization that supports people from different backgrounds and environments in helping to provide access to healthy, safe food. It started out with a man with land to farm and teens looking for work in 1993. Today, Growing Power is a highly influential force for change on the local, national, and global level. Volunteers come from all walks of life; all ranges of age, background, and ability can be found lending a hand.

The farm is relatively small, but includes several greenhouses--some of which house chives, tomatoes, potatoes, and lettuce--goats, chickens, and a couple of rams with a love of bread. The goats were quite the escape artists as well. 

We spent the day in different groups doing different tasks around the farm. These tasks including filling up wheelbarrows with wood chips, taxiing the wheelbarrows, spreading wood chips, spreading fresh soil on potted plants, and transporting compost. By the end of the day, we had wheeled several barrows of compost to an empty greenhouse, creating a sizable pile that rivaled some of us in height! 

(This was the pile we were digging from, not the one we created!)

At the end of the day, we had the privilege of meeting the founder of Growing Power, Will Allen. 

After about an hour of resting back at Home Base (a.k.a. the apartment our leaders live in and where we have meetings/meals), we set out once again, this time to meet with Rid Racism Milwaukee. This organization started back in 1995 with a goal to fight racism in Milwaukee. The mission had tried to spread to the rest of Wisconsin and beyond, but they realized that, for the moment, they would be more effective focusing on Milwaukee. 

We spent a couple of hours having a discussion with five of its members--Dan, Reggie, Matt, Sue, and Ted. Over sub sandwiches, we discussed the group's history, their plans to achieve their goals, and their ideas on how to continue the conversation about race and racism in our own lives. Though we received many great pieces of advice, the most important was simply to arm ourselves with knowledge. We talked about when and how these conversations can take place--be it with a stranger who's conversation you overhear or the uncle at Thanksgiving--and how difficult it can be to overcome the fear and take a stand. But we also acknowledged the importance and effectiveness of it. And while Rid Racism is currently focused on Milwaukee, they hope to branch out further--indeed, they say they need to branch out further--and having these conversation about race and racism is one way to help. Our conversation was only supposed to last an hour, but we were all so involved that it went twice that! We could have stayed all night if we weren't all exhausted from the day's activities. 

We look forward to tomorrow's adventures at Victory Garden Initiative and also to returning to Growing Power later in the week. We would also like to thank our community partners for these amazing opportunities to work with them and for Rid Racism for the amazing discussion (and to apologize if any names are misspelled). 

Good night from Miltown,

Christina and Haylee

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday, Day 2

Welcome to Day 2! We started the day off with having pancakes for breakfast. After cleaning up we headed to the Milwaukee Public Market.

The market was full of vendors selling a variety of things from seafood, groceries, spices, plants, pastries, chocolate, and gifts/postcards. Despite the traffic it was a great experience and gave us a feel of the area. During our reflection we compared our observations of the atmosphere of the public market to the experience from Aldi last night. We notice that even though they were both places to shop for food, there was a difference in term of how it felt to be there. At the public market there seemed to be the connection of it being a place to go for fun and as a privilege shopping trip. Where as at Aldi just buying groceries was not a special event.

After the Market we went to the Milwaukee Public Museum. The museum had 3 floors full of exhibits for us to explore and we also saw a theatre show that talked about whether the asteroids really killed the dinosaurs, which was apart of our museum admission. The museum was very informational and interesting to see because the galleries and exhibits were very detailed in their displays. One of the things that really stood out at the museum was the walk through the exhibit called “Streets of old Milwaukee”. This exhibit highlighted the history of Milwaukee as it became more industrialized. During reflection we discussed cultural appropriation and talked about the comparison of the master narrative and personal narrative by critiquing the exhibits, where we shared our emerging awareness of how race plays a role in which perspective is told.

We had a great first full day in Milwaukee and are looking forward to work with Growing Power and meeting up with Rid Racism Milwaukee. Stay tuned for more updates!

- Olivia & Yeng

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Day 1 of Traveling

A Hop Skip and A Jump Away

We met not so bright and early at 9:30am in Anderson center where we loaded the Hamline van in pursuit of Milwaukee, WI with our fearless drivers Merry and Nur. On our drive, we saw a turkey while others took a snooze. 

After five hours in the car, we finally arrived at our lovely destination, the Marquette apartments. We quickly unpacked and headed out to Aldi to get our grocery shopping done. While at Aldi, the group really bonded over packing all of our food into boxes (see video below). 

Once we got back from Aldi and put everything away, we got some grub then had a great reflection. We reflected on how stressful being on a tight food budget can be, and trying to figure out what should be the first thing to go if we were to go over budget. We also learned the importance of getting fresh, nutritious food, and not just frozen or processed food. After reflecting on our shopping experience, we made affirmation bags which will be a great keep sake for each of us to remember our experience.

Merry and Jenna N.


Food Justice Catalyst Blog 2016

Come join us and follow our amazing experience learning about Food Justice in the Milwaukee area. Stay tuned to get an insider look at the adventures of the 2016 Food Justice catalyst group.

Merry and Yeng