Help to Make the Season Bright

Despite what the religious nuts claim, giving is truly the reason for the season. Most organizations are in need of your support, and there are many worthy causes out there (you can see what I’ve supported in prior years here and here).

My donations have increasingly gone to organizations that work on food issues — whether it’s feeding hungry people, funding school gardens, or increasing access to fresh food to needy communities. I’ve often written about eating locally and shopping locally, so I’ve tried to put my money where my mouth is by devoting most of my charitable giving this year to local, food-focused non-profits.

One of the most common critiques about local or organic food is that only the well-off can afford it. But many of the organizations, below, are showing that fresh, local food doesn’t have to be expensive.

CitySlicker Farms –  Cityslicker brings fresh, locally grown produce, honey and eggs to areas of Oakland that are essentially food deserts. CitySlicker has urban farms and backyard gardens. They run farmers markets and help residents learn to grow and cook their own food.

Urban Tilth Another organization working to increase access to fresh food (this time in West Contra Costa country). I was particularly inspired by this article about how Urban Tilth helped Richmond High School set up a school garden and then created a very low cost CSA (community supported agriculture) with produce boxes filled with food from the garden. The CSA  has been so popular that there’s a waiting list — showing that even in poorer communities, there is a hunger for real food.

Quesada Gardens Initiative -In Hunters Point, an area of San Francisco known for its poverty and its violent crime, residents are literally cleaning up their neighborhood: planting gardens together, providing fresh food in an area that has more liquor stores than grocery stores, and creating a true community.

UrbanSprouts – The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 55, so we need more young people to start growing food. Urban Sprouts creates school gardens in seven middle and high schools in order to better educate young people on gardening, growing food and eating better.

The Food Pantry – One of the many local food pantries supplied by the San Francisco Food Bank and their net work of farmers (you can read more about how California farmers are helping supply local food banks in this New York Times article). The Food Pantry offers free food to hungry people every Friday, and they also help start other pantries –so far, they’ve helped get an additional 18 pantries up and running.

CHEFS – Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Service (CHEFS) is a San Francisco organization that trains homeless people for restaurant work. Nearly anyone who comes to San Francisco sees the homeless problem the City faces and getting people off the streets is hard. CHEFS is one program with a real record of success. According to the CHEFS website, “80% of CHEFS graduates acquire a place to live, and a better life through employment”.

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