Jeff Sharlein participated in AVODAH in
What was your experience in AVODAH like?
I'd always been interested in both Judaism and social justice but was not interested in "doing Jewish" professionally. In AVODAH, I was immersed in Judaism in programs at home but not doing explicit Jewish work outside. This was really good for me. Since AVODAH, I haven't been super active in the alumni community, but just knowing that I am part of a community of like-minded people with a shared experience is powerful in some way.
How did you get involved with food justice work?
I started getting really interested in food issues when I was in AVODAH. In the AVODAH house, we joined the Park Slope Food Coop. Being part of the Coop for six or seven years gave me a sense of working for my food in a different kind of way. I was very aware of the way things are labeled, which is different than in a regular supermarket. This is initially how food justice issues got on my radar. I read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and a couple of other books that also got me thinking more about locally-grown food and local agriculture. When I ended up moving out to
What do you do with Earthworks?
Earthworks is affiliated with the Capuchin soup kitchen. Capuchin monks have a large presence in
I've been volunteering with the Farm's youth programs regularly since last winter. Neighborhood children come to do activities related to healthy living and healthy eating. They have a small plot within the Earthworks plots where they plant and harvest crops. They also prepare healthy snacks with the food they've harvested. The farm itself relies heavily on volunteer labor for most of its crops, so I've also been working on the farm regularly.
What has the community's response been?
In the city, there definitely is significant interest in food justice. Urban agriculture is big in
Earthworks definitely struggles with not just giving a service to the community but integrating its efforts with the community. Most of the volunteers on the farm, like me, come from the suburbs. Earthworks is increasing its efforts to get folks who eat at the soup kitchen to be more aware of the farm and get involved.
How do you see food justice efforts continuing in
Personally, I am interested in becoming professionally involved in food justice work. I am applying to go back to grad school for a doctorate in social work and sociology. One of the academic interests I have is in looking at alternative food economies and how they relate to the mainstream economy: how it can even be better for a community, in some regards, to grow their own food - how it could be a blessing in disguise to be cut off from the mainstream food culture.
- Avodah Updates
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