BY RENE THOMPSON Begun in 2009 as a Southwest Organizing Project initiative, Project Feed the Hood was founded to enhance opportunities for a dialogue about hunger and where our food comes from. The food literacy and gardening program provides access to food and alternative ways to consider and combat hunger than organizations like food banks have traditionally offered. The national popularity of the farm-to-school movement offers incentives for local farmers to produce food for nearby schools in need. In addition to providing schools with healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables, children can visit these farms to learn where their meals are coming from. Project Feed the Hood hosts their seventh annual spring opening fiesta at their community garden (1410 Wellesley SE) on May 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The organization has assisted more than 20 local schools in starting their own campus gardens and community gardens in impoverished areas of Albuquerque. Project organizer Rodrigo Rodriguez says the fiesta will start in the morning with a special seed blessing with the rest of the day reserved for planting or composting, attending seed workshops and celebrating in the garden. Activities are planned for all ages, and seeds will be distributed for backyard or community gardening. Lunch will be provided, and guest speakers address the importance of school and community gardens in New Mexico. Throughout spring and summer, the Project Feed the Hood garden is used for more than just growing food; by providing yoga, nutrition and cooking classes there, the space has been diversified. The core mission of Project Feed the Hood remains food literacy and how that conversation about sustenance exists in relation to place. “Everything we [grow] is organic, but we specifically use heritage or heirloom seeds,” said Rodriguez. “A lot of [our] seeds come from the Pueblo or traditional local farmers. We try to be stewards of the earth, land and water because it’s a vital part of our culture. We always try to work from a cultural perspective as indigenous Chicano New Mexicans.” All six schools that Project Feed the Hood is working with are considered class one schools for children with regard to lack of food. That means 100 percent of these students consume school-provided lunches rather than being able to bring food from home. These children tend to live in more poverty-stricken areas of Albuquerque like the South Valley and Southeast Heights. “Most, if not all, of these kids are getting their primary meals at school,” said Rodriguez. “What we’re seeing is a lot of missed meals. There are lots of indicators of how they measure hunger, and many older students will skip meals to make sure their younger siblings are eating. New Mexico in general is continuously ranked in the top three states for childhood hunger. To be classified as hungry, at least 30 percent of kids are continuously missing meals.” It’s important to note that the absence of hunger doesn’t necessarily imply healthful eating or adequate nutrition. It also matters what we eat. “There are all these dietary diseases that could be avoided with more education in poorer communities, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease,” Rodriguez said, “[That] ultimately costs us hundreds of millions of dollars in health care [costs] that are completely preventable.” Project Feed the Hood plans to rename their community garden this year in honor of former City Council President Rey Garduño and his wife Ilsa. “They have both been tireless advocates in our community for food and social justice,” said Rodriguez. To learn more information about Project Feed the Hood or volunteer, visit projectfeedthehood.org.
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