Saturday, March 19, 2011

Please don't stop the rain, but let's end hunger

"But we’ve got no control over what happens anyway
And if it’s going to be a rainy day
There’s nothing we can do to make the change
We can pray for sunny weather
But that won’t stop the rain.”
– James Morrison’s Please Don’t Stop the Rain

Dartmouth students take spring break with us!

Today, an interfaith group of 12 students and their chaplain from Dartmouth College (N.H.) came out to The Free Farm, as part of their 10-day spring break trip to volunteer and reflect on homelessness and poverty in the Bay Area. Some of them visited last year when The Free Farm was covered mostly in manure rather than today’s foliage. They are staying at a hostel in the Tenderloin District, among the homeless and impoverished, as well as the many health and social services organizations that serve this population. Follow them at

Homelessness and poverty contribute to hunger. In addition to volunteering at The Free Farm, the students will volunteer at a local church to serve meals to the homeless. Many years ago, I visited the church to find mostly white food like turkey, mashed potatoes and white bread—mainly calories to keep people alive. I suggested that they check out Project Open Hand (POH), which serves meals to people with chronic diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS, as well as seniors, so good nutrition is essential to their survival. As a POH volunteer, I eat the same colorful, delicious and nutrient-dense “meals with love” that are served to clients! POH is located just 4 blocks away (other side of Van Ness in the Tenderloin) from The Free Farm so consider volunteering at!

Hunger poster on MUNI #31 bus shelter on Eddy St. across from The Free Farm

How can we end hunger?
Last month, The Economist’s special report on feeding the world concluded that industrial agriculture is the only way to feed 9 billion people in 2050, and that “Traditional and organic farming could feed Europeans and Americans well. It cannot feed the world.”

The Gates Foundation, one of the sources acknowledged at, attempts to address malnutrition by “fortifying the world one meal at a time” through its Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). But do corporate food giants really need incentives, in the form of lobbying for favorable tax and regulatory breaks offered by GAIN, to peddle fortified processed foods to poor countries? In addition, the Gates Foundation has been promoting a new “Green Revolution” in Africa, using modern technology like genetic engineering, to address poverty and hunger. Many have wondered whether fortification programs are just a step away from genetically modified foods, and a duplicitous way for multi-national corporations to gain easy access to poor markets?

When it comes to food, scientists already know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts—that breaking down a whole food into its component products is no longer in a synergistic context that includes other balancing nutrients. Since whole grains, fruits (including legumes) and vegetables already contain naturally occurring nutrients (carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, water) and phytochemicals (non-nutritive components in plant foods that may play a role in fighting chronic diseases), why not focus on teaching local people to grow edible plants the old-fashioned (natural) way?

To paraphrase a Chinese proverb (originally about fish): “Give a man kale and feed him for a day; teach a man to grow kale and he will eat for a lifetime!” Though we’re giving away produce at our Free Farm stand each week, we also hope to inspire visitors to volunteer and/or grow their own using sustainable farming methods.

Here come the links :-)

Read Food First’s excellent policy brief examining 10 reasons why another Green Revolution will not solve poverty and hunger at
The UN’s agroecology report suggests that attempts to end hunger will come from local, small-scale efforts that build soil quality and biodiversity.
Get inspired by reading Jill Richardson’s article about how biodiversity in agroecological farming systems provide the range of nutrients to prevent malnutrition at

Stanley & Sophie harvest purple tree collards

Cutting chicken wire for trellis in greenhouse

Alena brings soil over to planting group

Seed propagation log
Labeling from seed packets
Thumbs up to rainwater collection
Sophie checks on lettuce & radish planted 4 weeks ago Mixed greens ready for harvest
Taking much deserved break in greenhouse
Gratitude circle in greenhouse
Tree's wild rice, Alena's butternut squash curry & Kris' chili quinoa
for lunchOrganizing tool shed
Megan's masterpiece
Securing post
Weaving bamboo through chicken wire
Tying knots
Securing bamboo to chicken wire
From container to ground
Planting in the rain
Tree joins students planting in the greenhouse

We thank the Dartmouth group’s work in alleviating hunger, and we always welcome groups and individuals with similar motives to join us at The Free Farm on any of our workdays. Hope to see you real soon!

Public Service Announcements:

March is National Nutrition Month: “Eat Right with Color”
Eating a variety of foods supplies different nutrients, so to maximize the nutritional value of each meal, include healthful choices in a wide range of colors.
Sun., Mar. 20, 2011: Meatout
Meatout is an international observance helping individuals evolve to a wholesome, compassionate diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains. The purpose is to expose the public to the joys and benefits of a plant-based diet. "Kicking the meat habit" holds lasting benefits for consumer health, world hunger, resource conservation, environmental quality, and animal protection. More information at &

Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. Presidents Wilson, Truman and Roosevelt galvanized the nation with voluntary meatless days during both world wars. By cutting out meat once a week, we can improve our health, reduce our carbon footprint and lead the world in the race to reduce climate change.

Tues., Mar. 22, 2011 at 6-9 pm: Water Matters discussion & party
Project One, 251 Rhode Island St., San Francisco
March 22 is World Water Day. Participate in the conversation and party afterwards at the launch of the new book, Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource. Join Water Matters editor and AlterNet staffer Tara Lohan in conversation with leading environmental thinkers including: Water Matters contributor Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch; Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; Debbie Davis, policy director for the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water; Jacques Leslie, Water Matters contributor and author of Deep Water: The Epic Struggle Over Dams, Displaced People and the Environment; Francesca Vietor, president of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and interim program officer for the Environment at the San Francisco Foundation.
Conversation will run from 6:15pm-7pm and then we'll have time to eat, drink and be merry. Expect delicious light food and a cash bar. RSVP by emailing

Wed., Mar. 23, 2011 at 6-7:30 pm: Climate change discussion
San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin St., (at Grove), San Francisco
Healy Hamilton, the director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Informatics at the California Academy of Sciences talks with freelance science journalist Mark Hertsgaard about his latest book titled Hot: The Next 50 Years on Earth. In this conversation you will hear about how climate change is altering weather patterns around the world and how it will impact localized weather related events in unique and unexpected ways. Hertsgaard's book takes an optimistic look at how we can adapt to the altered state of life that comes with climatic changes. Learn about how plants and animals, including humans, are already beginning to shift in response to the changing world around them.

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