Monday, August 11, 2008
We brought another load of fresh produce to Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes today. The tomatoes are starting to ripen in full force. Tomatoes followed by beans seem to be our most productive crops this, our first year. At Loaves & Fishes we were greeted by Marvin King (featured in the photo to the left), who we have come to expect to see when we make our weekly deliveries. Mr. King always greets us with a warm welcome and a smile. We always look forward to seeing him.
Back to the garden, our corn shows few signs of producing anything but stalks for us this year. Deb Zulauf plans to pull it and replant a late season plot of beans and peas in its place. We are hoping that our efforts to add organic materials and nutrients to the soil this year will make next year's garden even more productive. We are also discussing what crops to include next year, and which ones to eliminate. Stay tuned to this blog for more on this process -- especially toward next year's planting season.
Posted by DJ Ostrem at 10:18 PM
Sunday, August 10, 2008
The piece below on Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes appeared in the Sunday, August 10, 2008 edition of The Kalamazoo Gazette, and it also in the Gazette's on-line edition available through http://www.mlive.com/. Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes needs help keeping up with demands for food Sunday, August 10, 2008 BY ANNE WEND LIPSEY A 50 percent increase in service in just one year -- that's the increase in Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes' emergency food distribution during the first seven months of this year over the same period in 2007 -- and demands continue to rise. In July alone, we sent out more than 100,934 pounds of food -- 77,861 through our Grocery Pantry Program and the rest to support other food programs. Are we amazed? You bet! Are we keeping up? Yes, barely. Are we pleased to be able to keep up? Definitely. Yet when we have a moment to think about it, we have very mixed feelings about this accomplishment. On one hand, we're incredibly grateful to this community for its support of this effort. Without ongoing donations of food, time and dollars, getting groceries to hungry people wouldn't happen at all, let alone at these levels. Each week we work with over 400 volunteers in our call center, warehouse and grocery pantries to help connect hungry people with food supplies. Just this summer, we added service capacity through two new pantry partnerships and the Mobile Pantry, which is operating five times a month. On the other hand, we're disturbed by the level of need reflected in this service record. Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes provided Kalamazoo County residents with 22,112 emergency food days -- three meals each day -- in July 2008, up from 14,681 in July a year ago. These numbers are a stark reminder that growing numbers of real people are experiencing real harm to their health and well-being in this tough economic environment. At Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, our system is running at full speed plus. Every day we're moving, literally, tons of food into and out of our warehouse. Every day the phone rings almost constantly. One call center volunteer took 53 different phone calls during her three-hour shift a couple of weeks ago, setting up appointments with pantries for households across Kalamazoo County. Are we panicked? Not quite. But we need everyone in this community to know that, today, it's increasingly tough to keep up this level of service. Rising food and energy costs are having an impact on all of our household and business budgets. It's not surprising that Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes' costs of doing business are going up dramatically -- at the same time we're experiencing unprecedented increases in the need for our emergency food service. Today, a growing number of people who never expected to find themselves needing emergency food -- people who contributed generously in the past -- are included among those receiving emergency food assistance. Today, volunteers are having to choose whether or not they can afford to utilize high-priced gasoline to get them to their volunteer assignment. Today, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes is struggling to keep up with the demand for very basic food items -- peanut butter, tuna, hearty soups, canned fruits and vegetables -- as costs rise and donations of canned goods decline. Today, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes is struggling to buy adequate supplies of these and other foods. Reliant on the generosity of this community, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes has combined donations of food, time and dollars into an effective and efficient grocery pantry program that ensures access to emergency food five days a week, year-round, for over 26 years. But today, we're challenged to keep up with the boundless ``perfect storm'' of rising demands and rising costs within the context of the most serious economic downturn this region has experienced in decades. This is a critical time for many people and for Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes and, unfortunately, not a time that will end soon. Are we panicked? Not quite. But we need your help. Across this community we know there are people willing to pitch in. We need your faith communities, workplaces, schools and neighborhoods to join us in collecting critical food items for distribution through the Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes system. And we need your help securing the dollars necessary to keep the refrigerator and truck running and the lights on and to buy food supplies to supplement donations. We need your help. Please contact Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes at 488-2617, ext. 208. We can find a place for your support to be utilized, immediately, to help ensure food security for everyone in our community. Anne Wend Lipsey is the executive director of Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes.
Posted by DJ Ostrem at 10:12 PM
Saturday, August 9, 2008
The garden continues to grow and we are grateful for what we have been able to provide to Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes so far. We have had some issues with insects, but a spray of a garlic solution seems to have helped. We are keeping the garden organic, so that means managing weeds by hand, and even using chickens along with the garlic spray to control the insects.
Posted by DJ Ostrem at 4:21 PM
With minimal work by us, God has smiled on our garden and made it grow. Here are some pictures of our garden. Along with the produce also have come weeds, but they are part of the process. Meanwhile, we have started to harvest fresh vegetables and making weekly deliveries to Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes.
God is good - all the time!
Posted by DJ Ostrem at 4:14 PM
Our garden would not have been possible without the support of our community's businesses who helped make this dream possible by donating plants, seeds and supplies for the garden. We encourage you to support these local businesses who have supported us: - Schram’s Greenhouse 7313 S. Westnedge Avenue Portage (269) 327-5347 -Centre Street Market 732 E. Centre Avenue Portage (269) 327-8144 - Romence Gardens 9660 Shaver Road Portage (269) 323-8310 - Four Seasons Tree Service 77 E. Main Street Breedsville (269) 427-5082. The produce that we are growing is graciously being accepted for distribution to those in need by: - Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes 913 E Alcott St Kalamazoo (269) 343-3663 www.kzoolf.org
Posted by DJ Ostrem at 1:33 PM
Friday, August 8, 2008
With much excitement and many helpers, we set out to plant our garden on Saturday, May 24. As with our previous two work Saturdays, the weather was perfect. The ground had been prepared and the fence posts were in place. Our team went to work immediately plotting out the garden beds, then planting various plants and seeds. Meanwhile, others worked to install the fence and build and install a gate.
By the end of the day, we had the whole garden planted with crops such as cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, beans, radishes, squash, peppers and kale. Thanks to all who helped, the day was a huge success!
Once the garden was planted, we added colorful streamers to our garden fence to help keep the wildlife out. The streamers gave the garden an added festive look. As of this post, the fence and streamers seem to have worked.
Posted by DJ Ostrem at 5:40 PM