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It’s 100 Degrees Outside and We’re Cookin’ Inside

18 Jul

Farm to Freezer: Preserving fresh, local food to nourish the hungry

by: Cheryl Kollin, Full Plate Ventures

Last Saturday 10 volunteers came together to beat the heat by washing, chopping, blanching fresh vegetables at St. John’s Church in Bethesda. In just four hours volunteers with Farm to Freezer prepared 50 lbs. of tomato sauce, diced zucchini, and roasted eggplant for the freezer. This food will be incorporated into healthy meals throughout the year for Bethesda Cares’ meals program that feeds the hungry in our community.

“Hooray for us!  It was actually a lot of fun and nice people to chat with too”, exclaimed Susan Wexler who joined the prep crew on Sunday. “Someone asked me if I was a professional; I said well, I have spent a lot of time in kitchens!”  

You don’t have to be an experienced cook to join us. The program seems to resonate with people for many reasons. Some people volunteer because they like to work in the kitchen chopping vegetables while getting to meet others. Some parents like this project to work along with their teens, while they earn student service learning credits. We welcome teens ages 13-15 with an adult, older teens and adults.

Others like the idea of supporting Bethesda Cares’ social mission. Founded in 1988, was originally established as a lunch program to combat hunger in Montgomery County, providing meals to those living on the streets. Homeless men, women and children suffer from hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity every day. To help ensure the homeless in Montgomery County receive a warm and nutritious meal, Bethesda Cares serves lunch six days a week and dinner on Sundays to between 40-75 people that adds up 20,000 meals each year. Today, Bethesda Cares serves as a day drop-in shelter, hot meals daily, clothing and toiletries, outreach worker case management, referrals for supportive permanent housing, psychiatric counseling, prescription assistance, and eviction and utility assistance to county residents.

Still other people like to support family farmers and our local food system. Every year about 40% of good but uneaten food goes into the landfill—wasted along every part of the supply chain from farm to table. The idea for Farm to Freezer was born last January during a conversation I had with Sue Kirk, the executive director of Bethesda Cares. “We are the official gleening organization of the Saturday Bethesda Fresh Farm Market but we get many more vegetables than we can use in our meals before it goes bad”, explained Sue. A weekly donation just from one farm—Spiral Path organic farm has averaged almost 400 lbs. every week this summer and we are not even at peak season yet! The organic produce that Spiral Path produces is just beautiful and it is a real crime to let it go to waste. Farmers get a tax deduction for their donation.

The spark of a Farm to Freezer project was born and six months later we are up and running thanks to generous support from community foundations, donated kitchens from partner churches, and in-kind donations from businesses including Whole Foods Bethesda, Zipcar, and Honest Tea. Even Compost Crew helps by donating their services to compost our food scraps. Volunteers are key to the success of this whole project—we seek 10 volunteers for our weekly prep days. People can sign up via Bethesda Cares’ Meet Up site individually or as a group activity with friends, family or colleagues. With continued community support this project has the potential to grow into a self-sustaining enterprise, earning operating funds by selling tomato sauce and other preserved food at local farmers markets and even teaching food preparation classes. Fresh local food comes full circle—from farm, to freezer, to market, back to compost—benefiting our whole community along the way.

To volunteer, sign up on: Bethesda Cares MEET UP

To read more about this program and who it benefits, visit: Farm to Freezer website

To see our events as they unfold: Follow us on Facebook


It’s Summer time–Upcoming Mishnah Garden Events

14 Mar


Sat. June 16                 Winter wheat harvest, place veggie signs

Sat. June 30                Harvest and plant warm season plants, cleanup weeds

Sat. July-Sept             Harvest Hosts lead weekly harvests & deliveries to Manna

Sun. Aug. 26               Community-wide Garden Festival Day!

Welcome to Adat Shalom’s Repairing the Earth Blog

16 Feb

This website is intended for members of  Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD to provide current information about activities and education related to our Jewish stewardship traditions for repairing the earth.  The site emphasizes our strong ethical ties through our Jewish historical and religious values.

Rabbi Fred addresses a large crowd of about 100 people at Greening our Sanctuaries: An Interfaith Workshop and Expo on July 17, 2011.  The program (cosponsored by Adat Shalom and Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, included a tour of the Mishnah Garden, 16 exhibitors, and 6 separate workshops.  A very diverse and knowledgeable audience, representing at least 30 different faith communities, was in attendance. 

See photos of the Greening our Sanctuaries Workshop- July 17, 2011

See the new writeup at the website of the state agency Montgomery Energy Administration (MEA) highlighting Adat Shalom becoming one of the first solar energy congregations in the DC area.  For background go to Solar Energy.