Filling Empty Bowls with Fresh Local Foods

I’ve spent a good many years planting perennial jungles and food forests wherever I hang my hat and coat (regardless of whether I own or rent). What’s most important for me is to contribute in areas that I can make a difference in the wellbeing of our community and environment.

As a gardener, urban farmer, and dirt advocate I am learning to grow food and live in more sustainable ways. It’s an ongoing process to regenerate land and soil using holistic approaches and permaculture techniques (for example without chemical fertilizers and pesticides). It’s also deeply gratifying to support more local fresh food abundance in the community.IMG_5057

This spring, I starting volunteering at the Montavilla Farmers Market to feed one of my passions: supporting initiatives that bring fresh fruits and vegetables from small farmers into a diverse neighborhood, and helping to provide more options for healthy local foods.

As a Portland native, one of the most painful realities has been to watch more and more people go without proper food, clothing, and shelter. For some this is a new reality: Portland residents who moved here with the promise of a better way of life and were caught off guard. For others, this may be an all-too-familiar way of life… living on the fringe without resources to find a clear way out. Portland’s economy with its low wages, housing crisis, and skyrocketing rents is not helping one bit.

We can tackle hunger and homelessness in Portland, but it’s going to take us all putting our heads together, and supporting some creative efforts from individuals, groups, and organizations.

I’m really excited about one effort that’s happening in the Montavilla neighborhood, called Empty Bowls. This is a fundraising event to fight hunger and stretch food dollars of low-income shoppers in southeast Portland. The empty bowl is a reminder that not all of our neighbors are fortunate enough to have an abundance of fresh and nutritious foods, yet we can help ensure they do.

Sponsored by Habitat for Humanity Portland Restore and Montavilla Brew Works, Empty Bowls aims to raise funding (about $5000) for the Montavilla Farmer’s Market Double Up Food Bucks program. Double Up Food Bucks provides an equal match of thousands of food stamp dollars (EBT) spent by low-income shoppers at farmers markets. Funded in large part by the Oregon Farmers Market fund, Montavilla Farmers Market must raise additional funding to bring this innovative program to our southeast neighborhood.IMG_5111

Last year the Montavilla Farmers Market board and staff crowd-funded $7000 to provide up to $10 (free) in matching food stamp dollars every Sunday all season long. For each food stamp purchase we matched up to the first $10 – effectively doubling access to fresh local fruits and vegetables. The money raised from Empty Bowls this year will enable our market to continue offering the equal match food stamp program this year.

Nearly 1,400 visit the Montavilla Farmers Market each week, reaching 15,000 people per month throughout the neighborhood and city. We believe that everyone, regardless of income, should have the opportunity to eat healthy, fresh, and high-quality local foods.

Empty Bowls will be held on September 13, 2016 from 5:30-8:30 at Montavilla Brew Works. Participants who purchase a $40 event ticket will enjoy a delicious meal of three seasonal soups, artisan bread, appetizers, and local beer or cider. The entire proceeds from the event will go towards the Montavilla Farmers Market Double Up Food Bucks program.

In addition to delicious soups made by local chefs, music, and good company, the event will also feature a silent auction (with foods-related items, local artisan crafts, and event packages).

How can you help? For starters, please buy your tickets now as space is limited. We’re also looking for silent auction contributions. All auction donors will be acknowledged at the event, in our newsletter, website, and social media channels. If you can’t attend but still want to support our farmers market food stamp matching program, you can donate here.

Did I mention for attending the event, you get to take one of these beautiful handmade bowls home with you? We look forward to seeing you there!

Empty Bowls

Author: Kathryn Thomsen

Founder of Hundredgivers, a nonprofit supporting and accelerating sustainability initiatives benefiting local and global communities. Kathryn is a social entrepreneur, consultant, researcher, writer and urban farmer. She collaborates with individuals, organizations, and businesses to develop climate change solutions, clean energy, and sustainability strategies and programs.

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