Fruits and vegetables by the numbers with Forward Church veggie drive 12,000 pounds

Sustainable food ministries focus to‘re-donate’ not just compost; motivate to eat FNV campaign

By Gregory Jackson


(Photo:  Greater Cleveland Food Bank demonstration garden.  Learning gardens or learning farms are becoming more common in teaching others how to grow food and eat more fruits and vegetables.)

Forward Church hosts a monthly veggie drive every first Saturday.  Hours before the food drive volunteers begin early sorting and bagging fresh fruits and vegetables donated by Greater Cleveland Food Bank (GCFB).  They donate about 12,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables that provide food for Cleveland’s Historic Broadway and other food deserts throughout the area, but even if you live in areas with abundant food choice with a fine grocery store nearby, are you eating enough fruits and vegetables?

A few weeks ago First Lady Michelle Obama has launched “FNV” campaign which stands for “Fruits and Vegetables”, supported by athletes and celebrities.  Groundz way of raising awareness for eating more produce is our partnership with Forward Church monthly veggie drive, their urban farm at Willow, and soon a new coffee shop for fellowship.

Eating more fruits and vegetables (FNV) began from a 2013 New York Times article written by Michael Moss entitled, “Salty, Sugar Fat:  How the Food Giants Hooked Us.”  Victors & Spoils, an ad agency took the article’s challenge to market produce like junk food by beginning with marketing of broccoli.

To help Forward Church meet zero waste veggie drives, last week Cort Cable, Groundz co-founder, delivered some extra grapefruit and produce to another shelter and took 5 boxes back to our compost sites, including Maggie’s Farm and Mr. Cable’s own backyard, a 2-acre former farm that we are working on to restore; for a zero waste food ministry.   Last Saturday we composted about 115 pounds of 12,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables leftover, donated to Forward Church from GCFB.  The rest went to other shelters, making Forward Church’s monthly veggie drive one of Cleveland’s first zero waste food ministries.  Mr. Cable also delivered pallets to Salonica Payne, urban farmer at Willow, for an urban art project.

We were recently contacted by Metropolitan Lutheran (Metro Lutheran), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that prepares 1,700 meals per day.  We plan to ‘re-donate’ edible veggies from Forward Church, who receives food from Greater Cleveland Food Bank, and give the food to Metro Lutheran.

“We have a culinary arts program for people with Re-entry backgrounds and/or homeless and we make about 1,700 meals per day that we serve to 6 area shelters.” said Vice President Michael Sering, Housing and Shelter, at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry.  “We are a partner with the (Great Cleveland) Food Bank, and more fresh veggies would be great!”

Re-donating unclaimed fruits and vegetables donated by GCFB has been a great cause for Groundz to be a part of.  In fact, last year GCFB contacted one of our urban farmers asking if they can compost about 750,000 pounds of food per year, compared to 29.1 million pounds of food they received in 2009 (during the “great Ohio recession”), according to a Brookings Institute study.  Year over year, GCFB continues to receive more food, a 32 percent increase from 2009 to 2014.

Re-entry culinary arts employment programs have seen success, especially at Edwin’s Restaurant & Culinary Institute, at Shaker Square in Cleveland, Ohio.  I was also privileged to continue relationship with Father Gregory Boyle S.J. whom I first met at John Carroll University commencement speaker for the Class of 2004 and introduced himself to my class as follows.

“What’s up my hommies?”

Father Boyle, founder of Homeboy Ministries in Los Angeles, California has successfully and continues to employ former prison inmates with “celebrity chef-like” café status, tattoo removal services, and job coaching for life skills building.  Homeboy Ministries has helped change the lives of at least 80,000 former inmates in the past decade all throughout L.A. and reduce recidivism rates.

Edwin’s Restaurant is near completion for urban housing for their employees to help motivate; we are listening to the heartbeat of Cleveland’s Historic Broadway District to learn how a new coffee shop can encourage fellowship and revitalize vacant lots with productive urban farms.

When I asked Pastor Jeff Bodziony, founding pastor of Forward Church, about the new Common Grounds coffee shop planned to open this summer, we have been learning ways to revitalize Cleveland’s Historic Broadway District, said plans are moving forward.

Our first sustainable food ministry with Forward Church was in November when we helped them ‘re-donate’ and compost 280 pounds of radishes thanks to the help of our urban farm friends from Cleveland Crops, who grow local food and donate fresh produce to St. Augustine Church & Hunger Center on West 14th Street.

Urban farmer Mrs. Payne was able to use 40 pounds; we composted 120 pounds at Willow, and the remainder 120 pounds of radishes brought to Cleveland Crops where we gave the radishes to farmer Gerald Gross with a composting trip involving an Amish sawdust donation from our avid woodworker.

“Oh, you can still use these,” he responded.  “Here put these radishes into the freezer.”

Cleveland Crops Stearns Farm site has a walk in refrigerator, where the edible food was still edible and good to eat.

During our November 1, 2014 veggie drive with Forward Church helped Pink Pumpkin Patch nonprofit that helps raise funds for breast cancer through pumpkin farmers, was able to use them for a pumpkin drive and seeding.

After the pumpkin drive, Groundz composted 500 pounds of pumpkin with leaf donations from private residents; leaves provide vital mixing material for properly composting food waste like fruits, vegetables, pumpkins, and radishes.

The process of growing fresh FNVs begins with compost to enrich the soil.  Diligent farmers shovel and mix in the compost with seeds to grow a fruit or vegetable.  Water it, weeding, and then harvesting.  Bumble and solitary bees who perform a specialized kind of pollination called sonification are only able to pollinate crops like sunflower, canola, strawberries, blackberries, lentils, peas, chilies, tomatoes, alfalfa, red clover, and all potatoes.  Learning that the world of FNVs does not need to compete with junk food consumption, but as the campaign aims to deliver ads, a positive approach may be to emotive the case for eating more veggies by featuring how sonification or “buzz pollination” involves how a bee “hugs” a blossom by closing her wings over the petal and vibrating incredibly fast to create a sonic electrostatic attraction with the male anther of the flower.  From the soil, compost actually makes more nutritious FNVs.

When I shared with Chef Doug Katz, executive chef at Cleveland Art Museum and owner of fire food & drink (and one of Groundz composting customers) about Chef Dan Barber’s book The Third Plate, he noted how rotting apples produce healthy apple trees.  For example, in an apple orchard those apples not harvested rot on the ground and become organic soil fertility for the apple tree to grow next year’s apple, observed Chef Katz during a Groundz interview that we will feature on our new YouTube channel, Groundz recycling.  Chef Barber used an example of a carrot’s mokrum number – carrots grown in compost have higher mokrum numbers and our more nutritious than carrots not grown this way – suggest that food waste composting grows healthier fruits and vegetables – and encouraging kids to eat more FNVs at school.

“Most kids only have 20-30 minutes to eat lunch,”  said Kevin Concannon, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition & Consumer Services during a C-SPAN Washington Journal program (March 16, 2015).  “Serving both apples and tangerines encourage students to eat more fruits and vegetables if schools offer them a variety.  When I was in line at a school cafeteria I saw one of the students put something green on his plate and asked him what is that?  He said:  “This is kale and we grow it here,” said to me about putting this vegetable on a student’s plate.”

Some schools are beginning to create learning gardens right on school grounds, where Groundz has been having conversations with school districts on offering them free compost.

In Spiderman 2, Spiderman rides his bike while a police chase ensues behind him forcing Spiderman to do a couple of back flips and land safely, but his mini-motor bike was crushed.  On the sidewalk two kids are amazed.

“How’d you do that?”

“Well, you know workout, plenty of rest, eat your green vegetables.”

“That’s what my momma’s always sayin, I just never actually believed her.”

Forward Church next veggie drive is Saturday, April 4, 2015.  We hope to see you there so you can eat more FNVs.


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