Friday, January 21, 2011

Elkhart Local Food Alliance (ELFA): Who We Are, What We Do

Elkhart Local Food Alliance:
Planting seeds of hope through neighborhood gardening and collective education; strengthening our neighborhoods through empowering relationships with each other and the earth

Core Values:
-      empowerment through education and skill-building
-      strength through community collaboration
-      based in West and South Central Elkhart, reaching out to the rest of the city, county and region
-      grassroots-based, resident-led
-      networking with allies
-      approaching “health and wellness” with a holistic and integrated vision
-      undoing oppression in all of it's forms
-      food security, meaning access to fresh, local, pesticide-free food for all people, and skills to produce this food autonomously
-      autonomy for historically marginalized communities
-      respect for the earth and all of the life it supports
-      meeting people where they're at; embodying flexibility in our programming and emphasizing relationships to best respond to local realities
-      consensus
-      inspired by hope, creativity and possibility

Building Community: Community Meal (Wednesdays at 6pm, Jubilee House, 1320 Prairie Street)

Bringing Beauty to our Neighborhoods

Sharing Good Food!

Fostering Conversations

Celebrating Much Growth

The Elkhart Local Food Alliance is made up of community members and supported by local organizations grounded in the neighborhoods of South Central Elkhart. We seek to cultivate community and create food security through a variety of interactive programs. We can create food security by having greater control over and knowledge about where and how our food is grown, particularly by using space in our own neighborhoods to grow food for ourselves and our neighbors. Food security also means creating access to nutritious food and education about good food choices in all neighborhoods. We are committed to empowering ourselves and our neighbors to do just that, by seeking out and creating thriving, local, sustainable food systems and culture. In our diverse community, food and food cultivation can bring us together for vibrant sharing and collaboration. ELFA is committed to creating educational programs and neighborhood gardening spaces which will strengthen our health, economy, environment and community. At the root of our work is a commitment to partnering with existing organizations and  neighbors who have experience in working with food systems and who carry a similar vision for strong, healthy neighborhoods.

The Elkhart Local Food Alliance was born in 2008 when community members already involved in farming, market gardening, youth programs, public education, and working towards stronger communities through their churches and neighborhood organizations came together to address food security and sustainability issues, particularly as they pertain to the neighborhoods of South Central Elkhart. Many of these individuals carried a strong belief in the importance of bountiful, nutritious, local food being made accessible to people of all economic classes. As the formal economy in Elkhart County took a turn for the worse, it became exceedingly clear that we would need to look within our own immediate community for resources as many families struggled to survive. Historically, local, fresh, organic produce is highly priced, and sold in markets that are not readily accessible to people in lower-income neighborhoods. ELFA members are committed to an ethos of food justice, which entails that the cultivation of local, fresh, organic/pesticide-free produce is done in a way that makes it affordable and available to people from all classes and backgrounds without damage to the environment.
In the spring of 2009, ELFA members worked with a local farmer on the outskirts of Elkhart to plant several acres in vegetables. These vegetables were sold at a local farm stand and farmer's market, were donated to local food banks and churches, were shared with neighbors, and were used in food-preserving workshops. ELFA's plans for this coming growing season are shifting focus, moving towards an emphasis on participatory gardening, directly within our neighborhoods. Over the next several weeks, we will begin preparing the soil in 3 neighborhood gardening plots, readying for planting this spring. This shift towards an urban focus not only gives us greater opportunity to include more neighbors, but also allows us to run regular educational programs for children and youth, and workshop series for adults, while also facilitating more cooperation with other organisations in Elkhart.

ELFA facilitates a variety of programs, in collaboration with many neighbors and other local organisations. We are currently working with the Historic Roosevelt Neighborhood Association and tenants at the Roosevelt Center to begin a neighborhood garden on site. Two local churches, Prairie Street Mennonite Church (PSMC) and Fellowship of Hope Mennonite Church (FOH) have been supportive of ELFA endeavors. PSMC has given ELFA yard space surrounding Jubilee House (the voluntary service household, owned by PSMC) to install a neighborhood demonstration/teaching garden, based on permaculture design principles. In other words, this agricultural design will try to mimic relationships found in natural, local ecologies, which help increase yield and sustainability, while decreasing the need for human input. FOH has offered space for another community gardening plot on their property.
ELFA is collaborating with the Summer Academy program (an Arts and Culture program for neighborhood youth) at the Roosevelt Center, and with local 4-H leaders and staff to offer educational programs to youth and children, as well as with Michiana Master Gardeners and the Elkhart Environmental Center to provide workshops for people of all ages. These gardens and educational opportunities will seek to provide space for community members to come together, strengthening not only our food systems and physical health through nutritious produce, but also building stronger relationships within our communities, and, will cultivate a deeper knowledge and awareness of issues related to environmental stewardship and food production.
Along with education and gardening, the growth of food and the gathering together of neighbors cannot be done without celebration! ELFA also seeks to celebrate the strengths and assets of our neighborhoods by bringing people together for social events and community activities, as we celebrate planting, harvesting, or cooking food together.
Volunteerism is at the core of ELFA, as all of its members are volunteers. We believe that strong communities require the participation of many members, each bringing different assets to the table. Given the current high rate of unemployment in Elkhart, we have been experiencing even greater interest in volunteering in our programs from neighbors who have lots of time to invest in gardening and educational initiatives. More ownership and responsibility, and through this, more civic engagement at a local level, are created as individuals and communities give of their own time and diverse resources; this principle is foundational in the thriving of ELFA's vision.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Gearing up for 4-H!

Among the many exciting things we are doing and thinking as we begin to look forward to Spring and, therefore, the awesomeness of Gardening Season, one of the things we just can't wait to begin is 4-H! Elkhart Local Food Alliance supports our very own 4-H Club: The South-Side Clovers. More than anything 4-H allows the kids in our neighborhood to get outside, get into the dirt, and learn-learn-learn. The good news??? We don't have to wait very long! Our first 4-H meeting of the year will be

Next Thursday January 27th, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at Prairie Street Mennonite Church! (Right next to Jubilee House/Jubilee House Demonstration Garden!) 

Attached here is the Flyer---in English and Spanish announcing the start of this year's program. All children are welcome and, really, there is something for everyone!!