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Saving Garden Seeds

The article “Saving Garden Seeds” is a guest post by Roger Perry.

Saving garden seeds is an easy, fun, and inexpensive way to grow your favorite garden plants from year to year. Seeds are designed to withstand many natural problems such as heat, cold, drought and fire. Some can even survive being eaten by birds and animals. Many seeds can be dried out, saved, and planted the next year with some success, but for best results, follow the steps below.

Before you plant, consider how the plants are pollinated. Self-pollinated plants have flowers that pollinate themselves and grow true to the parent plant. Tomatoes, peppers, beans and peas are good choices. Cross-pollinated plants are pollinated by a separate plant of the same or closely related variety. The seed from these plants may not be true to the parent plant. Sweet corn can be pollinated by popcorn. Cucumbers, melons, squash, pumpkins and gourds can all pollinate each other.

If you’re interested in saving garden seeds of cross-pollinated plants, you should not plant more than one variety that may cross with the parent. If you plant one variety of cucumber–do not plant any melons, squash, pumpkins or gourds. Hybrid plants are produced by professionals. They combine two different varieties under strict pollination conditions to produce the best features of both plants. The seeds of hybrid plants will not be the same as the parent plant. The home gardener should not try to save the seeds of hybrid plants.

saving garden seeds

Obtain seeds, cuttings, transplants from a reliable source. Seeds should be fresh, clean and disease-free. Seeds can be obtained from commercial sources, community outreach organizations, seed exchange groups and fellow gardeners. Observe plant growth and  development and crop results (size, quantity, and quality), as you only want to save seed from the best plants.

Most seeds are not ready to harvest until after the peak for eating, so be sure to mark what you want to let ripen for seed so that it doesn’t get picked and eaten. Tomatoes and cucumbers have seeds that are coated with a gel. This should be removed by fermentation. Squeeze or spoon the seed mass into a waterproof container-jar, glass or cup. Add enough water to cover the seed mass, cover lightly and place in a warm spot out of direct sunlight. Stir at least once a day. The good seed will begin to sink to the bottom. The bad seeds and white mold will float on the surface. After five days all the good seed will be on the bottom. Pour off the accumulation on the top and wash the seeds in clear water several times Lay the seeds out to dry for several weeks.

Peppers can be cut open and the seeds brushed off the center stem onto a plate or screen. Set them aside to dry for several weeks. Always wear plastic gloves, wash your hands and be careful where you touch when working with peppers.

Squashes, pumpkins and gourds can be cut open and the seeds removed by hand or spoon. Wash them under cold running water, rubbing carefully to remove stringy membrane. Put them on a plate or screen and set aside to dry for several weeks.

Peas and beans should not be picked until the pods are thoroughly brown and dry. They may be left in the pods or shelled for storage. In either case they should be set aside to dry for several weeks.

Lettuce and greens also produce seed pods; however, they tend to shatter as they dry out. To prevent them from shattering either tie a paper bag over the flower heads or pick the dry pods daily. Treat the seeds like peas.

Melons can be cut open and the seeds removed by hand or spoon. Wash the seeds under cold running water rubbing off any stringy membrane with your fingers. Put the seeds in a waterproof container and cover with water. The good seeds should sink to the bottom in a couple of days. Pour off the bad seeds and water. Rinse the good seeds again and set aside to dry for several weeks.

Biennials, such as cabbage, beets, carrots, cauliflower, onions, parsley, and turnips, do not produce seed the first year. They can be left in the ground and protected from winter cold or dug up and stored over the winter and then replanted the following spring.

Once your seeds are completely dry they can be stored in any dry secure container placed in a cool dry area. More than one type of seed can be stored together, but each type needs to be separated in its own packet. Each packet or container should be clearly marked with the name and variety, date harvested and any other information you feel will be helpful next spring. Now you know everything you need for saving garden seeds.

 

This article is a guest post by VIA volunteer Roger Perry. Roger has more than 40 years’ experience with gardening. He has worked with all kinds of plants from potatoes to passion fruits, and is happy to share his expertise with the VIA community.

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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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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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IRS Rewarding Charity Efforts by Stealing $16,000

When the government began its destructive response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Louis Goffinet determined to help his neighbors weather the storm. But no good deed goes unpunished, and now the IRS is demanding that Goffinet pay more than $16,000 in taxes for helping the needy.

As the Hartford Courant reports, in April 2020 Goffinet started a fundraiser on Facebook, asking his friends to chip in a few dollars to help buy food for struggling neighbors that the government put out of work. By the time summer hit, more than $30,000 had poured in. Goffinet, a middle-school teacher who was stuck at home doing Zoom classes, used the money to buy and deliver food, help with rent, and buy gasoline for over 100 families in Connecticut.

IRS Rewarding Charity Efforts by Stealing
Louis Goffinet, right, a middle school teacher from Mansfield, started shopping for some elderly friends who were nervous about going to the grocery store. (Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant)

The University of Connecticut hailed Goffinet as a “local hero”. A local Dominos Pizza began chipping in with pizzas for the recipients of the donated funds. Goffinet started a second fundraiser, which gathered another $10,000 in donations. 

Everything seemed to be going great for Goffinet’s charity efforts—until he got a letter from Facebook telling him that he owed about $16,000 in taxes on the donated money. The IRS requires third-party transaction sites like Facebook to issue a 1099-K form on transactions greater that $20,000. And unlike ordinary people, the IRS is evil and does not care that Goffinet spent the money on needy families.

Louis Goffinet ready to deliver groceries to struggling families in his area. (Louis Goffinet)

Goffinet told the Hartford Courant that he was “shocked” to receive the bill. “It’s such a big amount. It’s not like I can say, ‘Oh, for the next month or two, I’ll dial down my expenses and I’ll save $16,000.’”

Yet, unless he can get enough new donations to help cover the amount demanded, that’s exactly what he’ll have to do—or face confiscation of his property by the IRS. Registration as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization could conceivably have helped Goffinet avoid the tax bill, but that’s no small task.

At Voluntaryism In Action, many hours every month are devoted to filling out paperwork to keep our tax-exempt status. This isn’t reasonable for anyone, let alone a 27-year-old science teacher who’s just trying to help his neighbors. And this isn’t the first time that the government has tried to hurt people who’ve helped others during the pandemic. But this is yet another way that the government victimizes people: by punishing those who are efficient at providing aid to others—when they do not follow the government’s arbitrary rules.

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Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub feeds people in wake of Covid-19

A small town pub did what they could in the face of government restrictions to alleviate the extra stress brought on by the pandemic during the holiday season. Chris Murie, owner of The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub in Toronto has been in “The Biz” for about 30 years, starting in the back of the house and as a chef. As an owner, he saw profits declining and employees struggling to get by due to the pandemic and the forced government lockdowns. In his frustration, he realized he was better off than many in his community. Many of the businesses local to him are now up for lease as the lockdowns continued.

When asked during an interview with CBC what the process was of deciding who they were handing out meals to, he replied: “No questions asked. Just call the pub. You tell us where you work or where you worked, give us your dietary restrictions, your food allergies, and we’ll have a hot meal ready for you.” As word spread around the tight-knit community The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub received offers to partner with breweries. The breweries who loved his idea wanted to find a way to help as well. They lent a hand by offering drinks to go with the meals.

Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub
Chris Murie, owner of The Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub.

Murie got the idea after posting a long Faceboook “rant” centered around his frustration in seeing his community struggle. The expanded and increased lockdowns recently announced were causing further harm to small businesses in the area, forcing many to close. But what really got the ball rolling were the comments under his post. Particularly the ones describing their personal experience. Paraphrasing the general sentiment, he described the comments that led him to change his mindset, “You know Chris at least you still have the business. At least you still have a way of making a living and supporting your family. And if you apply yourself you’ll get through this.” Murie went on to say, “For some of these folks they have zero. Like, they have nothing. And it made me feel real selfish, especially at this time of year. It’s not a time to be selfish. It’s a time to give, and that’s sorta how it all went down.”

The owner of the locally loved Dizzy Gastro Pub could not be prouder of the way the community has come together. “This is an amazing neighborhood. I’ve been here for 15 years. We went through construction down here about 12 years ago and this neighborhood supported us through all of that. And I couldn’t be luckier to be in the neighborhood that we’re in. We are getting a ton of phone calls. The breweries are kicking in beer here. People are bringing free pop today. It’s just, it’s an incredible neighborhood, it really is, it’s like a little village.”

Dizzy Gastro Sports Pub

When asked about the future of The Dizzy Gastro Pub during the lockdowns and pandemic he replied, “Well, we don’t know. The truth is we don’t know what’s gonna happen. We have a good landlord who is working with us, as we’ve been here for so long. So, we’re fortunate there. It just depends on what happens with our takeout and delivery, and if it’s enough to meet our fixed costs every month.” Despite the uncertain future he gladly lent a helping hand to the people in their small town.

 Murie decided to be generous in a time of personal need to help his community. Even though he was also hurting from the pandemic and lockdowns, he was fortunate enough to be in a position to help others. And he voluntarily did just that. The following quote he gave during the interview pretty much summed up his mentality behind offering to feed those struggling saying, “I can’t do a lot. I’m just a little guy, but we can give them a positive experience and offer them a hot meal.”

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VIA’s Second Annual Holiday Food Drive–Part 1

One of our favorite holiday traditions here at Voluntaryism in Action—our annual fundraiser for holiday meals—was a huge success this year.  Our donors helped us almost double what we raised last year, and we collected almost $9k. 

Annual Holiday Food Drive
VIA volunteers deliver food to St Jude's in Detroit.

More families need help putting food on their tables than ever right now due to government encroachments on natural liberties, including the right to simply go to work.  Voluntaryists everywhere have proven their principles by stepping up to help while these basic difficulties are so widespread.

annual holiday food drive
Executive Director Logan Davies and a VIA volunteer deliver frozen turkeys to St. Moses in Detroit.

With these funds, the VIA team purchased essential items for food banks across the country, including St Jude Food Pantry and St Moses the Black in Detroit, Michigan and the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano in California (the only food bank operating in the entire Bay Area due to government restrictions).  Our team personally delivered over 1,500lbs of food!  On the individual level, through our website and personal referrals, we assisted 30 families with groceries in time for Thanksgiving.

Annual holiday food drive
An overflowing palletful of food from VIA donations from our holiday drive being taken to Contra Costa food bank in Solano County, CA.

Watch for our holiday meal assistance forms to re-open soon in time to help with meals for Christmas, Chanukah, and other festive December meals!

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Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

One of the only good things about the tyrannical reaction to the pandemic has been the outpouring of support for people the government has hurt. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs due to state restrictions and lockdowns. But people are stepping up to help where the government inevitably hurts. For example, one chef is offering free meals to jobless individuals at his restaurants.

Chef Andrew Gruel (his food is better than his name) is a judge on the Food Network and the co-host of the SoCal Restaurant Show. He also owns Slapfish Seafood—a restaurant chain with 27 locations in the US—and the Big Parm pizzeria. On 3 December, Chef Gruel took to Twitter to remind everyone that people who had lost their jobs could get a free meal at his restaurants.

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

Hundreds of commenters raved about not only the Chef’s food, but about his kindness and generosity, and his willingness to assist those whom the state had harmed. Some people even offered to pay for the meals of jobless folks who take Chef Gruel up on his offer.

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless

Predictably, not everyone was happy about people helping other people. The propaganda put out by the government and mainstream media has warped many people’s sense of right and wrong, even to the point where voluntarily helping people in distress is denounced as “selfishness.”

Chef is Offering Free Meals to Jobless
Fortunately, most negative comments were few and far between.

Another common criticism of charity such as Chef Gruel’s is that greedy people will take advantage of his generosity, nobody will pay for meals, and he’ll lose money and go out of business. On the contrary, over the weekend the restaurants pulled in double the usual business as people flocked in to support Chef Gruel. And that money, Chef Gruel said, would be used to give his employees a holiday bonus.

The general condition of humanity is that people feel empathy for each other and want to help. This is why voluntary charity works—as the example of Chef Gruel and many more like him demonstrate.

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Anchorage Diner Defies COVID-19 Orders

Kriner’s Diner is a small, family-owned business. They’re a staple of Anchorage Alaska, where people can grab their delicious food any time of the day. But like most small businesses, they were hit hard by the initial wave of government-mandated COVID-19 closures. As Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz continues to impose ever more draconian measures on the populace, diner owner Andy Kriner has decided that he’s had enough. Now this Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders, both to continue serving food and to thumb their nose at the tyrannical government.


Kriner refused to bow to the newest order to shut down dine-in service, and made no effort to discriminate against customers not wearing masks. When word got out, customers flooded into Kriner’s—not only to enjoy their delicious food, but to support them against the government. Many people, seeing the dining room full, left a monetary donation rather than wait to eat. “The people have spoken!” announced a waitress, brandishing another donation. So many people started donating that the employees set up a special donation receptacle so they had more time to serve customers.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders
The "stop work" order, fastened to the front door of Kriner's Diner.

The Municipality of Anchorage, furious that people are thinking and acting for themselves, issued a stop work order to the diner on 4 Aug, threatening fines and imprisonment if the Kriner family and their employees returned to work without the government’s permission. Kriner’s cheerfully announced on their Facebook page that they would close early on 4 Aug to prepare for opening on the next day—which they did, to a packed house.

After attempting to call for comment and receiving a busy signal all day, I finally dropped by the diner to investigate the situation and their food (the burgers are great!). The employees had taken the phone off the hook, because there’s nobody available to answer it during the day. When businesses in Anchorage were allowed to reopen, some of Kiner’s employees realized they could make more money at home collecting the government’s new unemployment checks. “People just aren’t coming in to work,” Andy Kriner, the diner’s founder and owner, explained.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders

Currently, the diner is only open from 9AM to 3PM, and is not offering to-go orders. “I only have one cook now,” Kiner said. “He can’t cook dining room and carryout. I can’t do that to him.” This is just one more example of how the ostensibly well-intentioned actions of the government inevitably end up hurting the most vulnerable people.

Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders
Andy Kriner outside his diner. Image credit: Kriner's Diner

Despite the difficulties that Kriner’s faces, the people of Anchorage who are sick of the tyranny of their government have rallied around the small diner. Other businesses, like the Little Dipper Diner (also of Anchorage) have also refused to comply with government mandates and subsequent “stop work” orders. Hopefully, more people and businesses will begin to emulate Kriner’s Diner and the good people of Anchorage in taking back their rights from oppressive governments.


The best part is that people who are concerned about contracting COVID-19 are free to stay away from Kriner’s. The experience of Sweden shows that coercive government mandates like the Anchorage establishments are rebelling against are not necessary to “flatten the curve.” As this Anchorage diner defies COVID-19 orders, Kriner’s is standing up for people to do things voluntarily, without immoral coercion from the government. As we say here at VIA, good ideas don’t require force.

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Little Free Pantries Project in Toronto

It’s often during times of turmoil that we see the best that humanity has to offer, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception. Businesses have been helping lower income families put food on the table, individuals are making masks for others, and volunteers are grocery shopping for those that are more at risk of catching the virus. This pandemic has devastated countless families financially, shuttered businesses, and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands across the globe. The virus’ impact has been nothing short of devastating, but just like any other troubling time in history, you can always find the helpers.

With unemployment spreading rapidly because of the virus and how governments have responded, many are finding it difficult just to keep food on the table. Knowing this, some individuals and local businesses in Toronto, Canada, have started a “Little Free Pantries Project.” If you’ve ever heard of a “Little Free Library”—usually a small cupboard on a person’s lawn filled with books intended to be exchanged between willful individuals—then you can gather the general idea.

Neighbors are encouraged to leave a donation if they are well off, and those that are in need can take what they need when they need it. The Toronto Little Free Pantries Project has been building and stocking these pantries across the city. So far they have helped erect 13 pantries and are encouraging others to follow their lead.

It’s small acts of kindness—even a Little Free Pantries project—that make a significant impact on those in need. That box of mac & cheese might be insignificant to you, but it may mean the world to a single mom struggling to feed her kids right now. This is how we help our neighbors in a noncoercive, voluntary manner. With a little ingenuity, kindness, and charity, we can help those that are in need, especially those that fall through the proverbial government cracks.

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Nonprofits Use Apps to Get Food to Needy

Food waste and hunger are two huge problems in the United States, but nonprofits are using apps to address the issue.

The USDA estimates that over 30% of the food produced each year in the US is not consumed—ironically, mostly due to regulations from the government. If food gets too old, vendors have throw it away—even if it’s still safe to eat.

To combat the food waste, apps enable volunteers to pick up the extra food and deliver it to nonprofits, who deliver it to hungry people.

“KFC is preparing chicken continuously, Chipotle is preparing food continuously. We rescue it while it’s still hot and freeze it quickly,” says Bill Reighard, founder and CEO of Food Donation Connection. Since 1992, the nonprofit has been working to get unsold food to the needy, coordinating donations from companies like Pizza Hut.

nonprofits apps food waste
A volunteer using the Food Rescue Hero app to check in at a Pittsburgh grocery store to pick up donated food. (Monica Godfrey-Garrison/412 Food Rescue via AP)

“Many of the problems in the world today feel too big for one person to handle, but feeding the hungry is a way to take action,” says Leah Lizarondo, co-founder of the nonprofit 412 Food Rescue, based in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a step that you can take today,” she says, “and it’s very clear what your impact is. It’s as clear as feeding someone that day.”

Lizadorno’s nonprofit made an app called Food Rescue Hero that works on a model similar to Lyft or Door Dash: users can see instantly if unsold food is available at local stores and restaurants, and volunteer immediately to deliver it to a soup kitchen or food pantry.

Food Rescue Hero has announced that it’s teaming up with Reighard’s Food Donation Connection to build a shared online platform. The goal of their collaboration is to make it even easier for people to help those in need.

nonprofits apps food waste
Melinda Angeles and Eli Thomas transporting a donation of bagels from Bruegger's Bagels across the 9th Street bridge to a North Side senior center in Pittsburgh. (Nancy Andrews/412 Food Rescue via AP)

The MealConnect app from Feeding America takes the same approach. It has been used since 2014 for scheduled donations from chains like Walmart and Target. Beginning last summer, volunteers can also sign up to do impromptu, smaller food rescues. After they’ve registered at MealConnect.org or via the app, volunteers get a short training session at a food bank and are outfitted with a small toolkit of food safety equipment.

Volunteers might be “between classes, or maybe they’re retired, or they’re an Uber or Lyft driver that wants to take a break from driving people around,” says Justin Block, managing director of MealConnect at Feeding America.

There’s no doubt that people want to help others, and they will if given the freedom to do so. As we can see, they’ll even come up with innovative ways to help those less fortunate. And the easier it becomes to help those in need, the more people will do it—voluntarily.

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