Food Justice & Sustainability

Since the start of our award-winning, nationally-recognized Food Justice and Sustainability Program in 2009, we have addressed basic human needs and rights—access to nourishing, wholesome food, clean air and water, healthy soil—through urban farming. We have transformed the synagogue's lawns and others around the neighborhood into food producing micro-farms, growing fruits and vegetables and distributing the harvests to those in need—over 30,000 pounds to date. In addition to this ongoing work, we constructed food forests in marginalized and unproductive urban areas through fruit and nut tree planting. Just as with the micro-farms, the idea is to transform unproductive spaces into productive ones. The new focus is to establish ever more sustainable and secure sources of food. 

Food justice and sustainability will continue to be at the core of our efforts, but since 2015 we have been connecting that work to climate change. “Climate Change and Civil Rights” was the Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend theme that launched this focus that climate change is one of the central social justice issues of the day.

Goals

  • Provide, annually, for those in need 5,000 pounds of produce through our micro-farms and food forests, White Rock Gleaning, HHDFFI, and Edible Bima Program
  • Plant, with our many partners, 30-40 fruit and nut trees annually throughout Chicagoland
  • Teach urban agriculture and sustainability skills and advocate for healthy, local food systems and responsible energy, land and water use through our annual mid January MLK Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend, annual mid summer Farm and Food Forest School, and new Reavis Elementary School Environmental Education Initiative

Highlights

  • 2012 Hazon Vision Award for KAM Isaiah Israel’s outstanding work in creating healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond.
  • 2011 1st Place in the Vegetable Garden: City Wide category of the 55th Annual Mayor’s Landscape Awards program
  • 2011 GOURD Award (Gifts Of Usable Research Data) from the South Side Health and Vitality Urban Health Initiative at the University of Chicago Medical Center
  • 2011 Irving J. Fain Social Action Award presented by the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism to KAM Isaiah Israel “For its Exemplary Social Justice Program - Food Justice and Sustainability Program”
  • Featured, along with four other programs, in ”Bridging the Faith Divide,” the booklet on interfaith outreach, accompanying the Dalai Lama’s 2011 Chicago visit

Farmers and Educators

Since 2009 over 500 people have been involved with the program. They have educated, advocated, planned, organized, planted, tended, harvested, and delivered over 12 tons of fresh produce. All of this work is done by an extraordinary group of individuals—members and non, interfaith, younger and older—many of whom have been participating since 2009. The program enjoys a high retention rate and a steady, annual influx of new participants. 

Each January our crew begins the growing year by putting on one of the largest, free urban ag weekends in Chicago. From January through May they’re making monthly HHDFFI food pick ups and deliveries. In February they are planning and prepping for the coming growing season, by March they are outside prepping the growing sites, by late June they begin the weekly harvest deliveries, and host the annual Erev Mid Summer Shakespeare in the Star garden event, by late August they are starting up the White Rock Gleaning, for eight Sundays in July and August they are running the Farm and Food Forest School, in early autumn they are putting up the KAMII sukkah and collecting and planting fruit and nut trees, and by the end of November they have put the growing sites to bed for the winter. Then, after a two week break, they are deep into the planning of the January MLK weekend. 

For more information and volunteer opportunities, contact Robert Nevel at foodjustice@kamii.org.

Annual MLK Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend
KAM Isaiah Israel's Food Justice and Sustainability Committee has put on a weekend of education and advocacy around food and eco-justice each January since 2010. 2017 marks the 8th annual event in this series, with a focus on Climate Change and Water.

KAM Isaiah Israel Farm and Food Forest School
This dynamic, free, hands on summer program is an intergenerational learning experience open to anyone interested in learning about urban agriculture and sustainable design.

High Holy Day Fresh Food Initiative
This project provides fresh produce to our community during the "lean months," while our own urban farm is asleep for the winter.