letter from publisher
Welcome to summer, which from my point of view, is the best time of the year. Warm weather, long days of sunlight, green everywhere you look—and fresh veggies in abundance! Between our backyard and community gardens, farmers’ markets and even our regular stores that carry local produce, those of us with access to these abundant resources can finally have almost all the just-picked tomatoes, squash, beets, arugula, cukes, peppers and fruit that we could ever want.
Blessed with overflowing gardens, many of us resort to canning, pickling, baking or other means of putting away summer’s bounty for the winter. Others give tomatoes and zucchini by the bagful to friends, coworkers and strangers on the train. Eventually, we run out of takers for our overflowing gardens—but not really—there are a lot of people nearby we may not have considered that would love to share our extra veggies in their evening meals.
This month, we explore the topic of Food Democracy, a term coined in the mid-1990s by British food policy academic and former farmer, Professor Tim Lang. Boiling it down, food democracy concerns the “fulfillment of the human right to safe, nutritious food that has been justly produced.” In other words, access to safe and nutritious food is an inalienable right of everyone, no matter their economic status or position in life. A quick Google search pulls up myriad sources about the topic, providing a wealth of both sobering and inspiring information about how our ever-growing global wealth gap is related to the food gap of poverty, urban/suburban/rural food deserts and the obesity and chronic disease epidemic that has become commonplace. Up to one in six Americans struggle with hunger, yet 40 percent of the food in this country gets thrown away. Not good numbers.
So what does food democracy have to do with too many tomatoes in your garden? Plenty! Did you know that you can donate your garden’s bounty to a local food pantry and help someone else to put a nourishing and delicious summer meal on their family’s table? Thanks to the efforts of many organizations and government agencies, food depositories are able to legally receive and distribute quality produce to those in need. The 1996 Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was also enacted to protect those who donate “apparently fit” food in good faith.
One of the most convenient ways to locate a local pantry for your produce is through AmpleHarvest.org, which works hard to ensure gardeners can find good outlets for their produce. Gardeners can search their database to find registered pantries within a specified distance and includes the hours that donations are accepted.
Other options in the Chicago area include Common Pantry (CommonPantry.org), a Northside pantry with refrigeration capability to accept both fresh produce and dairy. Chicago Community Gardens (ChicagoCommunityGardens.org) operates its Share The Harvest Program, which works with community garden groups that produce specifically for food pantry donation. Also, check with churches, synagogues and other community groups for places where your bounty will go to good use.
Happy Fourth of July, Happy Summer and here’s to a glorious season of sunlight and smiles!