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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Growing It Forward ~ What One Person Can Do, Chapter One

Every human deserves access to clean fruits and veggies, organically grown.
(P. Annie's Secret Garden a 501c3, 2014) 

Back In The Day
When you're a child, some stuff is so much easier. Before the fruit is eaten from the tree of knowledge, you aren't aware of Climate Change, Senate rules, or public policy. You're biggest fight in any given day is to just stay up late, like the adults. But once you become aware, once you are awake, ya just can't put that genie back in the bottle. Once you see everything, there's just too much to fix, too much to learn, too much to teach, and it becomes too important to be quiet about any of it.

If you are lucky, you come up with a solution to at least one problem you see around you, you use Kickstarter or GoFundMe, you start to mass produce your solution, and share it with the world. The way those sites work, once your idea gets fully funded, and only then, you'll need to actually accept the cash. If your organization is a nonprofit, you'd be eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions, making it more enticing for donors to contribute.

One of the most visibly damaged sectors of society, and some of the most vulnerable, are our men and women who have served and returned home, war weary, and in need of assistance. Thankfully, organizations have popped up across the United States to provide that shelter from the storm, to hug them home.

As you may or may not know, many of our men and women who serve come back disabled in one form or another, and not all of them can easily take care of themselves like they used to. Luckily, there are incredible people out there working to support them with every fiber of their being.

We will attempt to shine a spotlight over the next couple of articles on those who do just that.

Growing It Forward, What One Person Can Do
One of those great people is a woman named Brooke Sanders, founder of P. Annie's Secret Garden. After her own little sister died of ovarian cancer at a young age, Brooke started studying the causes of cancer, the rates of disease, and the course of dietary changes over the last 100 years or so. What she saw, what many of us see, are our sicker members of society, i.e. disabled folks, who would benefit tremendously from consistent access to clean, healthy, fresh produce.

Those already faced with unique difficulties in the journey of life, shouldn't be further burdened with additives and preservatives that do nothing to improve one's quality of life, or one's health. Most importantly, when you are stuck like that, no gas money, not alot of money in general, you just grab the cheapest food available, and that's a vicious cycle that perpetuates the lot of our sick and poverty stricken. Sure if you have money, you can shop around for the freshest, the healthiest, the organic. Brooke Sanders made it her life's goal to bring what she calls "clean food" to those who don't have that immediate access, to bring self reliance to those who need it most.

After four years of fussing and fuming, Sanders decided to take matters into her own hands. She asked herself, "If not me, then who?" And really, that's all it takes to begin to make a difference around you. Sanders began by identifying the groups she wanted to focus on. She reached out to Head Start students and their families, local community college students, veterans, the disabled, seniors, and low income people in her area, determined to improve their quality of life. To put it simply, by aggregating the bounty of personal gardens, she could bring health in the form of clean food to the vulnerable.

So what the heck is "clean food?" Sanders decided what was most needed was meal options that included organically grown fruits and veggies using no pesticides, and no GMO seeds or seedlings. She reached out to homeowners with backyards and space to grow, and she got to work.

P. Annie's Gardens delivers to 70 people every week.
By going out into her community, Sanders started asking people to become a P. Annie's Secret Garden Host. Her ask? Allow the Secret Garden volunteers to bring in a healthy, "clean" food garden to your residential yard. They then plant, tend and harvest the food, finally delivering the freshness to all low income recipients who are in need. Through contributions, and lots of sweat equity, P. Annie's Secret Garden pays for it ALL. In fact, Sanders claims that a $10 contribution can feed one person for an entire season. That's about three months, and that's amazing.

Her organization now tends 20 gardens, and 4 greenhouses, and they have a goal of acquiring another 10 gardens before full winter hits, as well as raising another $15,000 to pay for the extra grows and materials. Come next spring, Sanders will be able to provide healthy, clean food for 5000 people, every week, every season. She explains, "Just because you where born into poverty doesn't mean we as a society have the right to feed you substandard food. It's wrong on ALL levels."

As Sanders puts it, "Everyone should have the same ability, as a basic human right, to access clean foods consistently. Our Elderly, without access, our Veterans, willing to sacrifice everything they have to help maintain a safe and free society, and our Children, our future leaders, should certainly have consistent access to "clean, uncontaminated food." All of those target groups, live on a daily basis with little to no safety net.

We, as a community have full power to ensure that our less fortunate members, the most fragile members of our community, are not going without clean, healthy foods. We as a community, by working together, can do something about this issue. It is only through community help, and consistent involvement, that we can truly thrive and make a lasting impact.

Not only does the nonprofit, and yes, they are now officially a nonprofit, deliver fresh food to the needy, but, when possible, the group teaches sustainability as well. What that looks like is putting gardens into some of their recipients' yards. If they have the room, P. Annie's Secret Gardens provides. All they ask is that the owners of these recipient gardens only take 2/3 of their harvest for themselves, and grow it forward by giving 1/3 back to the charity. Giving that portion to P. Annie's system contributes to their distribution abilities, and at the same time, creates community leaders. It's pretty amazing.

Forgiveness, second chances, fresh starts, that's all some of these people need. A sense they haven't been forgotten. The one thing that turns the world from a lonely place, to a beautiful place, is love. Love, in any of its forms. Love gives us hope. And through organizations like this one, we not only share the gift of love, we share the gift of health, and self sustainability.

If you would like to help P. Annie's Secret Garden, and Brooke Sanders, expand their abilities, you can contribute here.

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