September 13, 2014 marked the day nine inter-faith based organizations and churches came together to address the mass food insecurity experienced among Texans and demonstrate the grave need for low-income families to have access to nutritious fruits and vegetables. The Family Garden Demonstration Project is the seed of the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions and intends to show that the need to address food insecurity on a local, state and federal level is both urgent and relevant. The rate of food insecurity among Texans is 18.4%, which is significantly higher in comparison to the national average of 14.5%. 4,812,760 Texans are struggling with food insecurity, including 1,849,060 children. Markers of food insecurity include the lack of access to enough nutritious food, the purchasing of lower quality food and skipping meals due to the lack of financial resources.
Recognizing that the inequity in food access impacts millions of Texans who represent a wide array of cultural, linguistic and demographic backgrounds, the nine participating organizations financially sponsored the distribution of 148 gardens to their low-income members. Each site/family received a Garden Soxx kit, which are self-sustainable, biodegradable mesh tubes filled with organic compost soil; an important alternative to traditional gardening methods as many low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to live in areas with contaminated soil.
Pictured right: Garden Soxx placed among flowers and plants in the backyard of a Northlake Baptist Church member. After her husband passed away several years ago, she struggled to make ends meet on a monthly basis. The ability to grow her own food with the Garden Soxx is giving her the opportunity to supplement her monthly food intake.
As we move into the 4th week of the Family Garden Demonstration Project we are seeing some amazing growth in the gardens and hearing people’s powerful connections with growing their own food.
This is a resident of a men’s home in Dallas who remembers gardening on his grandparent’s land as a child. As he tends to the garden, he reminisces on memories and knowledge of planting and harvesting and says he still remembers gardening techniques his grandparents taught him several decades ago.
Families and individuals that grew up gardening and growing their own food as children are reconnecting with that history and carrying on those traditions while living in an urban landscape. The simple maintenance of the Garden Soxx makes growing food in limited land space possible.
Pictured left: The residents of this home decided to place their Garden Soxx on their second story balcony. The space looks like it was perfectly made to hold the Garden Soxx!
Members at Wesley-Rankin Community Center are using their gardens as a way to strengthen community and build self-sufficiency. Everything about the gardens was a collective discussion and decision; from placement of the garden, to maintenance, to who would receive the harvested food. Wesley-Rankin Community Center acknowledges that the community holds tremendous power and knowledge and believes in a collection voice and action.
Pictured right: Community leaders plant the gardens and set up a schedule for members to water and tend to the garden on a daily basis.
Most importantly for the faith based organizations, however; is their ability to share in their faith and strengthen their relationship with God. Here is a City Church member’s experience with her faith and gardening:
“I saw God’s design in the garden too, in that I give the same thing to every single seed: soil, water and sun. And each one turns out so different only because of what God designed within the seed.The seed in the analogy is the Word of God, and as he says, his word does not come back empty, but rather, it accomplishes his purpose. So while my faith is shown by my works (watering the garden), it is God’s design/purpose/power that makes it grow.”
While harvesting and eating the fruits of their labor has yet to happen and the amount of food produced is still unknown, what is evident is that these gardens are giving communities and families the ability to take direct action in their case for equitable access to nutritious food. While the push for a more expansive social safety network in Texas awaits, families are teaching their children about gardening and consequently about growth and responsibility, folks are reconnecting with the earth and the power of land to provide physical sustenance, some elderly widows are flooded with lovely memories of their husbands gardening with their children, families are strengthening in their faith and their connection to their congregations and conversations about what we need to do to end food insecurity in the US are happening.
This piece was written and contributed to the blog by Wendy Ortiz, Emerson Hunger Fellow