Monday, July 30, 2012

Sack Saturday!

This last Saturday (7/28), your local Oxfam Action Corps spent the morning at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Ankeny, Iowa collecting food (and cash) donations for the Des Moines Area Religious Council's (DMARC) Red Barrel Program. The Red Barrel Program supports 12 local food pantries around the Des Moines metro and serves our community's food insecure. For three hours of volunteer efforts, we collected 448 food items and $195.85 in cash donations! Special thanks to the Ankeny Hy-Vee as well as the local residents who were super generous on Saturday morning.

Just another way that we (and you!) can put a STOP to hunger!

Left to right: Lance, Amy, Crystal, and Eileen.

Crystal knows that we can do something
to stop hunger in our community!

Check out those carts full of food donations! No
wonder Amy is excited!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Believe in the Future

Believe in the Future

You might expect these words to come from some historical figure and indeed, they have. Throughout much of documented history, we’ve heard and seen this message echo across all landscapes - important leaders, both women and men, standing before crowds, demanding justice and offering their message of hope. What these words really amount to is a promise. A promise that tomorrow WILL be better than today, though not always without strife.

And who can make that promise?

Well, you might be surprised to learn that a group of 5th and 6th graders from Des Moines, Iowa came up with these words to share with the people suffering in Senegal, Africa. You see, they learned during our recent trip to the Science Center of Iowa that the Sahel region of Africa (including Senegal) is experiencing crisis conditions that leave the people there without water to drink and without crops to harvest and eat. We took the children through a few exercises to help them think about what survival looks like in countries experiencing a crisis. They took a water privilege walk to simulate the disparity gap between access to resources, ran a water carrying race to simulate the distance needed to carry precious resources and make severely difficult choices, and traced the hardships of crop production to simulate the impact of uncontrollable forces on their prosperity (see photos below for all). Afterwards, they were asked to create an artistic message of their own to show their support for the people suffering in the Sahel. These children know that they are the future and they're asking the people of the Sahel to believe in them.

As Oxfam Action Corps volunteers, we want to do our best to show people that the world we live in isn’t the one we always have to accept – that we can (and will!) make it a more just home for all 7 billion of us to live. Just as importantly, these 5th and 6th graders will one day be responsible for making decisions that could potentially impact the lives of those living in poverty (like the 18 million at risk in the Sahel). We adults sometimes (also see: very often) lose sight of the most important things in our lives. How fortunate we can be that our legacy, our children, can teach/remind us that perhaps the greatest promise we share as one enormous, slightly dysfunctional human family, is a future that we can believe in together.

Campers at the Science Center of Iowa show their support for farmers living in Africa's Sahel region. Believe in the Future!
Campers take a Water Privilege Walk and see the "resource gap" that occurs between the developed countries and developing countries when responding to a drought.
Campers carry 16 pounds of water during a Water Relay Race. The "country in crisis" group had to choose between using the water they carried to quench their thirst or save their crops.

During the prosperity exercise, campers get a lesson in hardship.  Crops they grew "weathered" uncontrollable forces, leaving them without the resources they needed to respond.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Let it GROW, let it GROW, let it GROW...

Oxfam America has recently launched THE GROW METHOD! Sounds ominous, to be sure…but, the GROW Method is all about making global food justice relevant to our everyday lives (click the link above or here to view the slideshow). Whether it’s the granola and apple you had for breakfast or even the slice of pizza you had for dinner, that food got to you somehow! Isn’t it incredible to think about?! All those little steps and hops that it took to grow the core ingredients, harvest it, transport it, and then transform it into all those recognizable dishes like lasagna, pad thai, stuffing, rice, mashed sweet potatoes…

Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes - Yum!

Can you tell that I’m craving carbs right now?! :-)

Seriously though, it takes a lot of steps to make your salad and there are a lot of ingredients that you never see. For example, most food experts estimate that it takes between 2-3,000 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. But, you didn’t drink the 3,000 gallons of water, you just ate the 1 hamburger it helped to produce. This campaign expansion focuses on key areas that allow you to give pause to those different components and resources that make up our food system. But, that’s not all! We want to hear what you have to say! How do you think about your food? In what ways do you cook? In what ways do you save food and prevent waste?

So, here’s a challenge for you (and it’s an easy one): talk to a neighbor, a co-worker, or even a friend. Ask them about something they do with their food to save money or reduce waste and share with them your techniques. Remember - we can always share our ideas with politicians to develop better food policies, but our most common direct vote is with our dollar!

And, depending on how we spend them [dollars], like the basic ingredients in any dish, we can transform our food and food system into crowd pleasers.

Monday, July 9, 2012




That was the message we were sharing this last Saturday at the 80/35 Music Festival in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. Oxfam Action Corps Iowa co-organizers/volunteers Cathy, Amy, and Lance spent the day talking about Oxfam America’s GROW campaign. We had great conversation with so many festival-goers, asking: What does a world without hunger look like?; How does investment in small-scale farmers contribute to a more stable global economy?; How can we make taxpayer $’s reach more people without spending any additional funds on food aid?

Between the free music download cards, t-shirt raffle, eggplant clapper (yes, that’s right!), and pledge signing – the hours melted away. Time flies when you’re having fun and that’s really why we’re out there in the first place. Because creating a more just world is difficult and takes time and can seem futile (watching political theater all while the impoverished struggle)…but our hope is renewed in those people who stop by our tent/table and figuratively “blow our minds” with their knowledge about food policy (these are the people who ask US if they can sign our pledge). Our hope is renewed by a young person who gasps when learning that 1/7th of our world goes to bed hungry and asks how they can help. Our hope is renewed when Iowans standing in the 100+ degree heat index give us 60 seconds of their time to talk about empowerment and community building in places all over the globe.

How incredible is that?!

The “noise” for food justice is getting louder everyday. Let’s make a better world. Let’s ‘JAM WITH OXFAM’!

just outside of Ritual Cafe!

Oxfam America supporters from S. Korea "jam"
with Cathy (left-sitting) and Amy (middle-front)!

Mike, from Des Moines, uses the eggplant clapper
to make some noise for food justice.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

GROWing a better tomorrow!

On June 26th, Oxfam volunteers Crystal and Mindi (as well as co-organizers Amy Luebbert and Lance Massey) headed to St. Timothy’s Faith and Grace Garden in West Des Moines for a little community garden action. The 40,000 square foot garden supports local food pantries, community centers, as well as a family violence shelter by producing tons of fresh produce annually. So far in 2012, over 1500 pounds has been grown and harvested. With the love, care, and sweat equity put into this garden by so many volunteers, tonight fewer people have to go to bed hungry. That’s how you GROW a better tomorrow!

(Above) Crystal used the tiller to prepare the soil for beans. Check out that backdrop of corn nearly ready for harvesting!

(Left) Mindi placed the pole beans in trenches on either side of the supporting fence. We covered the beans up a little later. It'll be fun to see how much they've grown the next time we go out to the garden!
(Above) Oxfam Iowa Volunteers: Mindi, Crystal, Lance, and Amy