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Food Truck Owner Donates Meals To People In Need

Sarah Manuel is no ordinary person–this food truck owner donates meals to people in need.

Sarah Manuel, food truck owner of Streatery, has decided to make it her mission to give back to her community by donating meals to people in need due to the government response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Manuel is on her fourth season running Streatery, and one thing that has never sat right with her is the amount of food that gets wasted in the industry. On top of that waste, she saw people suffer and facing hunger due to the government’s response to the pandemic.

The Havre Daily News reports that Manuel made the decision to do something about both issues, beginning her frozen meals program immediately after government lockdowns began. “I started this a year ago, when Covid set in, that was when we launched our line of freezer meals which we now sell at Bear Paw Meats. Some of that [food waste] is through the distributors, some of it’s at grocery stores, a lot of restaurants, and in the home. So I was trying to find a solution.”

The idea to help those in need and preserve food that would have otherwise been wasted started off small. “The way that we distribute is pretty low-key at this point. People just reach out to me, whether it’s an organization that has families, especially around the holidays, that was something we were doing to provide free meals for those families. I’ve also reached out to churches in the area and things of that nature to try to spread the word.”

To Manuel, it was the next logical step to gather support for this idea to help it grow. “I did everything on the GoFundMe platform, individuals who had a little extra money could donate to the GoFundMe. Then those funds were used to provide frozen meals for families who were maybe going through a tougher time financially.”

Food Truck Owner Donates
Sarah Manuel serves up some of her delicious food at Streatery. Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

The frozen meals program that Manuel started hasn’t just assisted struggling individuals and families but also food production businesses. Streatery is now helping support over 20 such businesses in Montana. She found herself with a lot of free time due to the pandemic and was able to use this to build the program up.

Catering is a large portion of her work and the lack of events due to government mandates left a hole in the usual business plan. She still had connections and the ability to acquire great local organic ingredients and used this to help others. While she was able to stay afloat during the peak of the lockdowns, she managed to support others as well through her ingenuity.

The process itself is rather simple while the results are profound. As explained by Manuel: “We have a food truck, but we also have a commercial prep kitchen separate from the food truck, and so we do all of our prep there. I have a lot of freezer space. So we make everything homemade and package it ourselves, freeze it, store it. Right now we’re just doing local delivery. So, we deliver to Bear Paw Meals in Havre and sell there. We also take orders on our website.”

Now with government restrictions on events decreasing, her food truck catering business has been able to build back up. Being able to cater weddings and major events again increases her ability to help others. Manuel is using her passion for food and her Streatery business to continue making her community a better place.

Manuel is running a fundraiser targeting food insecurity to continue addressing hunger and food waste. She is very excited about being able to expand her frozen meals program and enjoy events again.

Sarah Manuel has made a noticeable impact in her community by targeting a need she saw and could assist with. She voluntarily took the time and resources to find out how to best fix what she could for those around her. She and her business at Streatery have no plans to stop helping others anytime soon.

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Man Volunteers to Clean Up The Local Environment

Gus Vandermeeren was inspired to action when he saw an advertisement on TV concerning plastic pollution in the ocean. After seeing the commercial he said, “I sat there and thought ‘What the hell am I doing?’” So the 62 year-old computer engineer decided that there must be something he could do to clean up the local environment.

Since then he’s been spending his free time picking up trash on the side of road around the east Raleigh area. He has also taken the time to log his adventures, as he calls them, to document what he has done and where. He does this in a composition notebook he found while cleaning up the litter. He said, “ Pretty soon it became a passion and obsession. I have always had a feeling that I am not really happy unless I am being useful to society in some way.”

A little over a year later, WRAL reports that Vandermeen has picked up more than 2,000 trash bags of litter that he has come across during his adventures. Vandermeeren takes them all to the dump to be disposed of leaving the roads and earth cleaner. Now he has two dozen plus volunteers who come with him and help in his mission to clean up the absurd amount of litter. They joined him after seeing him in action and hearing about him on the NextDoor app.

Trent Parson is one of those who was inspired by Gus Vandermeeren and his work saying, “We all have to have a little bit of Gus inside of us.” Parson, 29, wishes that more people in his peer group and generation would develop the desire to help clean up that Gus has, specifically calling for Millenials to answer the call and do more to make the earth a cleaner and better place. “It’s really hard to get other people to be less of themselves. We have to make this world a better place for all of us.”

Gus Vandermeeren has now adopted two state roads in North Carolina through its Department of Transportation. He continues to do his work in the community knowing that its impact may not seem large but it truly makes a difference. “This is not a job for a perfectionist. Even if it gets really dirty again, it doesn’t change the fact that every piece of plastic I just picked up and put in my bag is never going to go in the creek somewhere [and] is never going to float out into the ocean somewhere.”

It’s amazing the impact just one man can have on his world and in their community. He saw an issue that he could take steps to correct and did so of his own accord, and in the process inspired dozens of others to do the same. Gus Vandermeeren and his accomplishment of collecting over 2,000 trash bags of litter is a nice story about how much you can do by leading by example and stepping up to the plate to address an issue rather than wait around for others to do so.

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Self-Sufficiency through Gardening

Freedom from the state and self-sufficiency go hand-in-hand. One of our latest projects here at Voluntaryism in Action, “Rooted in Voluntaryism,” aims to assist more people to increase their self-sufficiency through gardening.  A VIA follower and volunteer, Roger Perry, is a master gardener with a lifetime of experience.  Below, he offers some basic tips for beginners.  We hope this will be a helpful accompaniment to your seed starter kit if you signed up for our program, or that you’ll share with friends interested in starting their own vegetable gardens!      

 

Before beginning your home garden let’s take a look at some of the basics.

Climate Zones

 There are two main organizations that have developed a series of climate zones covering the entire country.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Publishes one list, and The Sunset Western Garden Book (Sunset) publishes another.  They are based on different information and so their zones do not overlap—you must be sure that you know which one you are using and which one a catalog, store, or label is using.  They are both widely available at garden stores, libraries, online, seed catalogs, and other sources.  These climate zones give you general guidance as to a particular plant’s adaptability to your general area.  Along with your climate zone you should also be aware of your microclimate—the things affecting your specific garden location.  Will the garden be on the north side of a building?  Is it shaded by trees?  Is it at the bottom of a hill?  Is there a river or lake nearby?  All these factors can influence a plant’s ability to grow in a specific location.

Growing Season

This is basically the number of days above freezing weather.  It starts with the average last day of frost in the spring and ends with the average first day of frost in the fall.  This is just a guide; there are plants that will survive in freezing weather and others that cannot tolerate any cold.  The growing season can be extended by starting seeds indoors, using plastic or blankets to cover plants, using plastic to cover the soil, or by using raised beds.

Soil

Soil is dirt, plain and simple.  You can plant your vegetable garden in almost any common soil and get good results.  There are a few things to watch out for—heavy clay soil, boggy wet soil, extremely sandy soil, acid/alkaline imbalance, lack of basic nutrients.  Clay, boggy, sandy soils can be improved by adding organic material—compost, sawdust, lawn clippings, purchased garden soil.  With boggy soil look for the source of the water to see if it can be diverted.  The general acid, alkaline, or nutrient status of your soil can be checked using a simple soil test kit purchased from a nursery or plant store, or you can send or take a soil sample to a soil testing lab.  These can be located through plant nurseries, local college/universities, or online.

Water

Quality of water is not usually a problem.  If you want your water tested, most municipal water providers, local college/university, or testing labs can do so at a minimal charge.  A bigger concern is with managing the water to ensure it is in the right place at the right time and the right amount.  This is called irrigation.  Plants require regular watering.   Newly planted seeds or plants should be kept slightly damp, but don’t soak them.  After they have become established, water deeply and then do not water again until the soil begins to dry out.  Small gardens can be watered using a watering can, a bucket, or a common water hose. Larger gardens need a water hose or a system of pipes, hoses, sprinklers that all may be hooked up to an electric timer.  A system of ditches, dams and pools can help collect and direct the water.  Mulching can help keep the soil moist.

self-sufficiency through gardening
Even with limited space, a small garden is possible. Here VIA volunteer Jeff has cleared some rocks and planted a pumpkin vine in the small border next to the backyard fence.

Mulch

Mulching is the process of adding organic material (Lawn clippings, leaves, sawdust, bark chunks) around plants growing in the garden.  The mulch helps retain moisture, keep plants cool, blocks weeds from growing, and adds nutrients and organic material to the soil as it breaks down.  As decomposing mulch takes nitrogen from the soil, it is a good idea to add nitrogen when you add the mulch.

Nutrients

Plants need nutrients (chemicals) to help them grow. These can come from inorganic (chemical) or organic (natural) sources.  Both types can be purchased to meet specific needs.  Organic fertilizers can also be found at home, although quantities and qualities are less precise.  Coffee grounds, eggshells, banana peels, and other kitchen waste (but no meat, fat, or bones!), leaves, lawn clippings, sawdust and other organic compounds can add some nutrients.  There are three main chemicals in fertilizer—Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Every fertilizer label lists the percentage by weight of these three ingredients (NPK) and then any other nutrients included.  If you use a chemical fertilizer, look for a balanced one.  These contain equal or nearly equal amounts of NPK fertilizer (10-10-10 or 15-10-8).

Composting

Composting is the process of breaking down organic material into soil.  This is done by building a compost pile (freestanding or enclosed).  Gather materials to be composted (lawn trimmings, leaves, kitchen waste—no meat, fat, or bones—and other organic material).  Shred or chop.  Dig a hole.  Put material in hole, cover lightly with dirt, mix it up, add some water, cover lightly with dirt.  In a few days dig the material, mix it up, water it, and add another light coating of dirt.  Continue this process until the composted material is no longer visible.  Now it can be added to other soil, used as mulch, or used for planting seeds.  If you don’t have the time or energy to turn it all the time don’t worry, it will eventually decompose on its own.  A simple way to compost small amounts is to take the daily kitchen scraps and bury them among the growing plants in the garden.  Be sure to remember where yesterday’s scraps are buried and stay away from plant roots.  Another easy way to compost is in the spring and fall when the garden is not planted, start at one end of the garden, and dig a hole.  When you have enough organic material, bury it in the hole.  Dig another hole and continue the process.  By the time you get to the end of the garden you can start again. 

Organic or Chemical?

Many people, especially those growing their own food, feel that organic is the way to go.  Others feel that proper use of chemicals is safe and easy.  The choice is yours.  There are organic fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides.  They may not be quite as fast or effective as chemicals, but they will not harm the environment, they allow for biodiversity, they provide “clean” crops, and they encourage you to be active in your garden.

 

Good luck in your gardening adventure! If you can’t afford starting seeds, be sure to visit VIA’s Rooted In Voluntaryism page to request help.

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Quit Helping or Go to Jail

This article, "Quit Helping or Go To Jail," was written by our volunteer David Day.

Living in south Louisiana was difficult in 2005, specifically because of two names: Katrina and Rita. These two hurricanes have had lasting effects that no one could have ever imagined.

If you wind back the clock a little bit, in 2005 the invasion of Iraq by the United States was still in full swing, and many of the engineers with the Louisiana National Guard were deployed oversees. So, when Hurricane Katrina made landfall and decades of corruption and mismanagement surrounding the government’s levee systems came crashing down, many people died and many more lost all their worldly possessions. Louisianans were left with nowhere to go, and with no timeline as to when things would be “fixed.”

I witnessed friends and family volunteering 12-to-16-hour days doing things like cooking, cleaning, and providing essentials.

At the time I was a freshman in high school living in a little town outside of Lake Charles, LA. While I did not personally know anyone who was affected from Katrina, I knew that I needed to help. My family and I decided to volunteer at the Lake Charles Civic Center which was the primary hub where the city was taking in those affected by the storm. In some sense it was a typical setup: there were rooms with cots lined up in rows, making a grid that spanned the entire Civic Center, but in another sense the Lake Charles Civic Center was atypical because of how much the volunteers cared for our brothers and sisters from the eastern side of the state. Something that I am proud of to this day is that we would serve Louisiana staples like gumbo, jambalaya, and pasta while other places would serve bread with spam—or worse—and call it a meal.

I witnessed friends and family volunteering 12-to-16-hour days doing things like cooking, cleaning, and providing essentials. Because of the increase in phone traffic, it was very difficult to make or receive phone calls, so I taught some of the volunteers how to use text messaging. They in turn reached out and taught people displaced from the hurricane how to text. Some people had loved ones that they were not able to reach out to and let them know that they were safe until we showed them how to use text messaging.

Then the unthinkable happened: while still serving the victims of Katrina, we discovered that an even stronger storm was in the Gulf of Mexico, only this time it was headed straight towards Lake Charles. Because of the tremendous loss of life resulting from government’s failures surrounding Hurricane Katrina, it seemed like the state was going to overcompensate by issuing a mandatory evacuation much earlier and enforcing the evacuation order with much more intensity.

The deputies said that if we tried to continue helping people, we would be taken to jail.

While some volunteers evacuated on their own, many of us, including me, wanted to stay to help until the very last minute. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s office unilaterally decided that the remaining volunteers did not need our help anymore. I will never forget deputies coming into the Civic Center kitchen and ordering me and the other volunteers to leave. The deputies said that if we tried to continue helping people, we would be taken to jail.

As a young teenager, this was a critical moment in my life. I remember evacuating to Pont Breaux shortly afterward and thinking to myself: “Why would they want us to stop helping?” We understood the risk. We understood the timeline. We remembered what happened from Katrina—this was why we wanted to stay as long as we could to help the remaining people. But none of that mattered to the deputies. The state could not make a risk assessment or value judgement for those volunteers who wanted to wait until the last possible minute. Unfortunately, what happened was that the help I could have provided was forcibly prevented by a top-down “solution” that was driven by the desire of politicians to save face from their failures with Katrina. This taught me a valuable lesson that the state, while sometimes well intentioned, is not the best way to help individuals.

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