Friday, December 2, 2011

Giving and Getting: Purchases Optional

Marion Street Garden: City Blossoms
Ah, December! Consumer heaven. People rush to shop online, in malls, at department stores, all to snatch up  items that quite possibly will be discarded by this time next year. Although I am a firm believer in the magic of holidays, I can't quite get behind presents given just for the sake of giving. Personally, I'd much prefer a lovely handwritten note, a batch of fresh muffins (whole wheat, naturally) and some homemade jam or a donation to a charitable organization then a hastily purchased gift. Hell, I'd even prefer someone *telling* me how much I mean to them then another bottle of wine or knickknack. No purchase required.

Produce purchases at City Blossoms come in a lovely hand-decorated bag
In that spirit, I am embarking on a personal journey this month to try and engage in meaningful giving each and every day. Some gifts will be monetary, some tangible. Others will require an investment of time or energy. All will be gifts of spirit. The goal is for me to think consciously about others, about why I'm giving, how I'm giving and the ways my gift can have an impact on one person or many. Each day, I'd like to bring some joy into someone's life.

A bit of this gift-giving will give me the chance to write about some of the fabulous organizations I've visited, worked with and learned about on my food journeys.  For the first day of my project, my recipient was City Blossoms. Here's a little bit about them.

City Blossoms is a non-profit in Washington, DC that operates eight gardens around the city and uses these gardens as a jumping-off point for lessons on nutrition, science, environment and community. Founded in 2003 by Rebecca Lemos and Lola Bloom (yes, that's her real last name), the program serves as an after-school "center" for many DC children as well as a resource for schools looking to bring more produce education into their curriculum. Rebecca and Lola work with kids (and anyone else in the community who wants to join in!) in the gardens weeding, planting, doing artwork, putting together baskets for their herb CSA shares, cooking and sampling the produce and running a small market. They also go into local DC schools and teach lessons on everything from evaporation to solidification to seed growth to culinary skills. Both the City Blossoms ladies have been generous in giving me ideas on working with preschoolers to middle schoolers! Their expertise cuts a wide swath.

At the Marion Street Garden, herbs grow like, well, weeds. Super delicious and nutritious weeds, that is.
City Blossoms works with the seasons and instills in the children and teens they work with the value of planning. Not only do they rotate each garden through seasonal changes, they also make sure to utilize all that the garden provides. Besides selling CSA shares (mostly of herbs), they sell affordable produce to the communities the gardens are located in, use it for delicious samples of nutritious food (of course!) and donate any surplus to local food banks. Lola and Rebecca also teach young participants how to create sellable products from remaining garden items. Soaps, sea salts and lotions made with their herbs are all sold as fundraising efforts for the program.

City Blossoms sea salts, soaps and lotion soap (my personal favorite)
Where does my "gift" come in? Yesterday, the generous FreshFarm Markets (check out my Zomppa piece on them and all the great work they do here) lent City Blossoms a spot in their Thursday farmer's market at Penn Quarter to sell some of their bath products. I stopped by and bought a few of each of their items (ok, I bought a TON of the lotion's pretty amazing). I can't wait to use it as gifts for friends and family. The money raised from these products will be used to support the gardens, but even better, it will be used to pay for a special celebration for the kids who have worked so hard all year long. Lola said they raised just shy of $200 total through their market sales, and the kids particularly loved being positioned at the market right next to the Dolcezza gelato samples. (Kids of all ages love Dolcezza. Just saying.) These young gardeners' seasonal celebration often involves dining at a nice restaurant (that utilizes fresh,seasonal produce, of course)- something many of them have never had the chance to do. Plus, they've learned valuable lessons about economics by marketing their products. These kids know how to SELL. Happily, they also know the nutrients in a tomato, how to grow a wickedly delicious cilantro and what a healthy, unprocessed meal looks like. And that's a gift worth giving to.

To learn more about City Blossoms, please visit here. To make a contribution to this organization, visit here.

How many 4th graders do you know that can identify "swiss chard"? Go get it, City Blossoms!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Melissa!! Okay you rock and your great!!! I would gladly send you homemade muffins! Love this post, have a fab week!