And, yes, there was this little thing called Irene in the middle of my visit.
Other than the fact that Philly...what's the word I'm looking for?...overreacted by closing every place of business except the hotel bar by 8pm on Saturday night and keeping them shuttered until well past noon on Sunday, it was another incredible experience. The people, the food, the city, and, of course, all the organizations I met with completely won me over. I can't wait to go back. (No, literally...I've already signed up to go back for this Philabundance Hunger Symposium in 3 weeks.)
I took the train from DC. And lost my license before I even sat down. In the quiet car. Luckily, the crack search&rescue team at Amtrak recovered it. Sadly, the passenger seated next to me is still hearing my loud and frantic whispering.
Started Day One at SHARE- a food distribution that serves areas of PA, MD, DE, NYC and NJ. SHARE compiles food "packages" filled with a mix of healthy staples and produce that will last about a week. The box may be worth up to $45, but participants pay less than half that amount. Steveanna Wynn, the incredibly personable director of SHARE, works hard to find local sources of food at the most affordable prices. SHARE distributes through community centers (where individuals can pick-up) and also services food banks.
|The Philabundance Fresh for All produce distribution in Upper Darby|
|One of UNI's gardens|
From there, it was lunch at Reading Terminal Market (more on that later) and a discussion with my "tour guide" for the day from Fair Food Philly. Fair Food Philly helps to link various restaurants, schools and community organizations to a more sustainable, local food supply. They also host various events and run a farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market aimed at helping people investigate where and how their food is raised.
In the afternoon, I headed out to meet Nic Esposito at Walnut Hill Community Farm. Nic recently wrote a book called Seeds of Discent about changing communities. He's one of those whip-smart entrepreneurs that understand systems and how to interconnect people and ideas. Nic's got his hands all over different food initiatives in greater Philadelphia. Plus, he tolerated my complete ineptitude with the Philly subway system, and the fact that I was over 30 minutes late for our meeting. I like that in a man.
|Walnut Hill Community Garden|
Day Two was hurricane day. I managed to take a run along the Schuykill River and run the Philadelphia Art Museum Stairs like Rocky. I also had a brunch of so satisfying whole wheat banana almond pancakes at a Marathon restaurant. Marathon is a local chain that sources from its own farm and as many other local places as possible. I'm kind of obsessed. (I had lunch there again on Monday before leaving.)
The rest of Saturday (Day Two) and Sunday (Day Three) are kind of sad...except for Sunday night when it got inexplicably gorgeous and I was able to both walk all over the city (Old City! Society Hill! Rittenhouse Square!) and people watch at the park while I enjoyed a leisurely meal at Parc. THAT was blissful.
Day Four (Monday) was glorious. Sunday night's weather only improved, and it became clear that Philly had been playing coy with me all weekend. Just as I was about to depart, she really showed off. I found a sweet coffee spot, and I enjoyed a leisurely walk around downtown.
The Pennsylvania Horticulture Society has been around since the 1820s, and their depth of knowledge is immense. I enjoyed not only visiting their Market St. Pop-Up Garden (like a pop-up restaurant but better for the environment), but also learning more about their City Harvest and Roots to Re-Entry programs. City Harvest not only shares PHS's expertise about gardening with local start-up community gardens, but also key tips on community organization and motivation- key factors for a successful garden.
My last visit was with Greensgrow greenhouse in the Fishtown neighborhood. Often referred to as the "original" urban garden in Philadelphia, Greensgrow not only runs a CSA, but also conducts a program known as "LIFE" that makes produce accessible to low income participants and teaches them how to use it.
The only thing Hurricane Irene disrupted was my visit to Greener Partners who I hope to connect with on a future visit soon, along with The Food Trust, a huge participant in the Philadelphia food justice community whose influence is pervasive in many of the other agencies I visited.
That's the quick and dirty on the Philly trip. Look forward to more on these amazing organizations and some great tips I learned, coming soon!