Michelle Obama is talking fresh, local and organic again. Last week the first lady helped serve at Miriam’s Kitchen, a place where homeless can drop in and get a meal. She brought eight cases of fresh fruit with her that had been donated by White House employees with her and she issued a call for others to do similarly. 

“Collect some fruits and vegetables; bring by some good healthy food,” she said. “We can provide this kind of healthy food for communities across the country, and we can do it by each of us lending a hand.”
We can’t all, of course, lend a helping hand at Miriam’s Kitchen, but we can lend helping hands in our own communities. Here are some of my ideas.
  1. Follow the first lady’s example and donate fresh fruits and vegetables to shelters and soup kitchens.
  2. Grow a vegetable garden and share your bounty with your neighbors and those in your community who need it. If you’re a seasoned gardener, plant a little extra this year.
  3. If you live in an area where fruit or nut trees are planted to adorn the community but the food is left to rot, it might be time to start a community harvesting program.
  4. Share your seeds. Most backyard gardeners rarely use an entire packet of seeds. Find someone who can use your seeds. Or start all of your seeds, and give away the seedlings you can’t use.
  5. Start a frozen meal pantry in the small food pantries of houses of worship. Many have non-perishable food pantries, and it’s difficult to donate fresh fruits, vegetables, breads and meats. They may have room, however, for a freezer to hold family size or individual portions of casseroles, vegetable rich soups, and even cooked meat and poultry.
  6. Donate better non-perishables to food pantries. The need is great right now, and those who are utilizing food pantries probably aren’t going to complain about the quality of the canned and dry goods they are receiving. But it’s not too difficult to increase the quality of what you donate. Instead of donating canned fruit in heavy syrup, donate canned fruit that is in fruit juice. Donate bottles of 100 percent fruit juice instead of sugary, fruit-flavored drinks. Donate uncooked, unprocessed whole grains. Help those in need have healthier choices.
  7. Another way you can donate healthy food to those who can’t provide it for themselves is considered a little extreme, but more and more people are becoming accepting of it. It’s called freeganism. Those who practice it scour the dumpsters and trashcans of grocery stores and markets to find perfectly good food that is being thrown away. They then donate it to those in need. For a first hand account of one freegan, visit the Secret Freegan website. This person has donated over $40,000 worth of food that would have otherwise ended up in landfills to those in need.
It seems that getting fresh, local and organic foods into the hands of everyone is one of Michelle Obama’s priorities. Let’s make it one of our priorities, too.

Image: andresmh 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Each of us lending a hand
The first lady envisions "each of us lending a hand" to get healthy foods to everyone. Exactly how can we do that?