THE ROOTS OF THE PROJECT
Original plans for Project Reroot stemmed from roots back east on Cape Cod. Raised with the backdrop of salty air, heavily wooded villages, scattered farms, cranberry bogs and the various neighbors that came with such – the desire to dig in and be a part of that bucolic scene ran deep. My sister volunteered at the local library across from my old elementary school – so many afternoons were spent studying and conversing with budding scientists from WHOI doing research or chatting it up with the reference librarians who encouraged me to dream a little and figure out my path (Thank you Kathy!).
Once I began working at Starbucks (at the time there were only two on the Cape, the next closest location was over 45minutes away) I came to appreciate that baristas have a unique relationship with their neighborhoods - caffeinating an entire cross section of the community - teachers, police officers, yoga/pilates instructors, lawyers, doctors, retirees, and students. While waiting for their lattes or macchiatos, news of the goings on within town was exchanged – practically a living newspaper of sorts (especially since several reporters from the Falmouth Enterprise were regulars). We knew them by name and favorite beverage choice, even the regular seasonal visitors that we expected to see come June to October. And when the rush of the summer faded into fall, we spent as much time chatting it up with our local fisherman, carpenters and landscapers as we did making coffee.
At the Thursday farmer’s market, at Coonamessett farm with my nephew or hiking Beebe Woods, while dropping off Grounds for the Garden for the community garden at the Falmouth Service center - I’d bump into these same neighbors – out with their families and friends. However, with this enjoyment came the sobering understanding that these were experiences that not everyone had an equal opportunity to enjoy. In speaking with several baristas I worked with, they expressed that not only were they among the families that relied on the service center to feed their families, but while they would have liked to use their SNAP benefits for the farmer’s market – lack of transportation and schedule conflicts with work and school prevented them from doing so. These realizations and experiences gleaned from friends, family and fellow baristas inspired the original Project Reroot plans – but wanderlust and moving plans to California put the idea on hold.
A TRANSPLANT IN NEW STOMPING GROUNDS
After a couple years stint in Orange County – I ended up in Los Angeles – without a car. While trying to aclamaite and get into my usual routine of attending local farmer's market proved difficult (requiring several buses and more time than I had to spare) - this was pale in contrast to the bigger issue that nearly 2 million residents of Los Angeles were struggling to provide their families with fresh produce despite the abundance that was grown here. It was then that plans for Project Reroot went back on the table and research into local nonprofit organizations that were addressing food insecurity in my new stomping grounds began.
Since then, relationships with Food Forward, TreePeople and ONEgeneration have been developed. ONEgeneration especially moves me - their intergenerational program reminds me of living with my abuelita – telling me stories of her youth in Utuado, quietly teaching me by example how to cook chayote (even though she was so tiny she could reach the back burner on the stove) – she taught me lessons that have helped keep me grounded as an adult. When children interact with seniors regularly, they are introduced to new interests and develop better social skills - learning to exercise patience, cooperation and compassion. The seniors in turn benefit from being able to share their lifetime worth of experiences and are reminded of their own youth.
FOOD FORWARD + PROJECT REROOT
Since 2009, Food Forward has been bringing together neighbors and volunteers to share in the harvesting and distributing of locally grown food from private homes and public spaces which is then distributed to local organizations serving those in need.
Over the course of the next year, we will be working alongside Food Forward supporting this program. With the support of the Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council and other neighborhood councils – we will be making an organized effort to give attention to the communities that are nearby to the Starbucks locations in my district: Lake Balboa, North Hills, Northridge, Panorama City, Reseda, Tarzana, Van Nuys and Woodland Hills.
The fruit harvested from these events will be distributed to nearby food pantries and other agencies serving local individuals and families in need, including SOVA in Lake Balboa. ONEgeneration, which serves thousands of seniors in the West Valley at their five dining halls and homebound meal program, will also receive a generous portion of the harvest. It is our hope that as this project continues, we will be able to involve local schools – inviting students and their families to take hold of this opportunity to use backyard resources as a means to give back to their school and their community. This fundraiser will to contribute towards expenses incurred leading up to and during each harvesting event – including insurance, tools, vehicle maintenance and gas) – enabling this relationship with Food Forward to continue for years to come.
Coming this November, we are excited to host our first FOOD FORWARD FRIDAY FRUIT DRIVE – inviting baristas, customers and neighbors to come out to our location and donate fruit from their backyard. This not only will result in more fruit being distributed to our neighbors in need – but will be an excellent outreach opportunity – encouraging more to “get rooted” in our community.
TREEPEOPLE + PROJECT REROOT
Since 1984, TreePeople has been distributing fruit trees to low-income families and schools throughout Los Angeles. We are currently in the planning stages for an orchard to be established at ONEgeneration's Intergenerational care facility (Grow ONEgeneration). This orchard will not only benefit the toddlers, preschoolers and seniors - but will be an exciting part of the curriculum for the brand new Transitional Kindergarten class! These funds will cover the cost of the orchard (the trees, weekly watering and maintenance for the next year).
OUTREACH + EDUCATION
Funds raised will cover the expenses related to printing and distributing outreach materials. This information will encourage more in the community to learn about Food Forward, TreePeople and ONEgeneration and how their neighborhood and families’ benefit from the programs these organizations provide.
This August, we were honored to be a part of celebrating the millionth pound harvested by Food Forward volunteers. Over the last year, we have been a part a corps of volunteers harvesting an average of 750lbs of fruit per event (during 2011/12 we made the commitment to support two harvest events a month). With this track record, we have the team goal of harvesting (with the generous volunteer support of fellow baristas) 20,000lbs of produce - with an additional goal of gathering 6,000lbs at the Food Forward Friday Fruit Drives.
Grow ONEgeneration not only will be enjoyed by the children and seniors of ONEgeneration - (involving them and their families in the planting and nurturing of these trees) – but will serve as a nutritional resource for the seniors fed at the ONEgeneration dining halls in years to come. The Grow ONEgeneration trees will also be enjoyed by community – as several will be planted alongside the northern boundary of the campus along the bike path, and the southern boundary along the future LA River walking path. Families also will enjoy the orchard during the weekly farmer’s market held at ONEgeneration on Sundays.
Even if you have no funds to contribute - do you have a fruit tree in your yard? Or perhaps know of someone who does? Register your tree at http://foodforward.org/get-involved/property-owners/
No fruit trees but have some time to share?
Check out what community involvement events Starbucks and Project Reroot are supporting at:
http://community.starbucks.com/index.jspa (search project reroot)
For other opportunities with our partner organizations:
Please Dig In and Get Rooted!!!