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Urban Farming in Pacoima

MEND's GROW TOGETHER program empowers low-income, immigrant families to grow their own food by creating and maintaining backyard gardens.

PARTNER

MEND

Little known fact — The earth’s soils store far more carbon than all of the plants in the world.


THE PROBLEM — Industrial agriculture has over-tilled and kicked up the soil’s carbon into our atmosphere, and we buy produce that is trucked in from the San Joaquin Valley — but we’re now learning how to reverse the trend.


THE SOLUTION — By using compost, cover croping, and no-till practices instead of fossil fuel-based fertilizers, we can sequester carbon in the soil, where it helps plants grow better.

And when Food is grown close to home:

* It Reduces the fossil fuels necessary to transport produce long distances
* It Slashes the need for petroleum-based fertilizers,
* It Directs organic waste from families and the community into compost instead of landfills, where it can breakdown into methane.

So we’re partnering with the best urban gardens and farms in Los Angeles to plant the seeds of this soil revolution.


MEND is a truly innovative urban gardening program. Based in Pacoima, their GROW TOGETHER program empowers low-income, immigrant families to grow their own food by providing the supplies and support necessary for creating and maintaining backyard gardens. It serves as a model for how farming close to home can transform the carbon cycle, lowering the number of car trips families make to the grocery store each week, and making our neighborhoods into vibrant centers of community and sustenance. 

Participating families: 

* Save money

* Eat a better, more healthy and nutritious diet

* Gain a new appreciation for where food comes from and value of time spent outdoors

* Alleviate stress

* Brings families and community together

* Maintain cultural traditions and sense of pride

Many of these families come from agricultural backgrounds in their native countries and MEND empowers them to continue their healthy plant-based diets instead of assimilating to over-processed, less nutritious supermarket groceries.


Our global food system creates 20–30% of all human being’s greenhouse gas emissions. Meat and dairy production contribute disproportionately to that total, as does food waste. But other things matter too.

The earth’s soils contain more than three times the amount of carbon as the atmosphere, and 4.5 times the amount of carbon as all living things.

Industrial agricultural methods have massively depleted carbon from the earth’s soil, transferring it into the atmosphere, causing global warming, and into the water, causing ocean acidification.

The good news is that it’s possible for the soils to start absorbing carbon again, potentially up to 15% of all global fossil fuel emissions each year. (All information drawn from Lal, R, et al. 2004. Soil Carbon Sequestration Impacts on Global Climate Change and Food Security. Science 304, 1623. DOI: 10.1126/science.1097396)

The solution is going to take place across the world and at all scales.

We can start with demonstration projects here in Los Angeles – urban gardens and farms that not only restore carbon to the soil, but also reduce the food system’s total greenhouse gas impact.

There are at least 6 ways in which food that’s locally and organically grown, using composting, cover crop, and no-till methods, can fight climate change.

  • Petroleum-based fertilizer use is reduced
  • Food waste becomes compost that’s plowed back into the soil, not landfill material that offgases carbon into the atmosphere
  • Local vehicle trips to the supermarket decline
  • Long-distance air and truck shipping of food declines
  • Seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables replace some of the meat, dairy, and processed food consumption
  • Carbon directly sequestered by woody plants, like fruit trees

BOTTOM LINE:

You reduce an additional 24 lbs of CO2 for every dollar you donate, over a 5 year projected life span of the garden.

We figured that out by calculating how much carbon the project reduces overall and that dividing by the project's cost.

Below is an explanation of how much carbon each of these factors reduce, individually and jointly, in the case of MEND and the scientific sources of this information.

Composting as a Substitute for Industrial Fertilizer and as Soil Additive
  • 30 Pounds of Compost Generated per year 80% Estimated % of wet compost added to the garden
  • Avoided Use of Industrial Fertilizer: 2.5 lbs of CO2 over 5 years
  • Carbon Stored in Soils, Instead of Offgassed Through Landfilling: 121 lbs of CO2 over 5 years
Favoino E, Hogg L. 2008. The Potential Role of Compost in Reducing Greenhouse Gases. Waste Management & Research 26 (1): 61–69. doi:10.1177/0734242X08088584.
Lou XF, Nair J. 2009. The Impact of Landfilling and Composting on Greenhouse Gas Emissions – A Review. Bioresource Technology, Selected papers from the International Conference on Technologies and Strategic Management of Sustainable Biosystems, 100 (16): 3792–98. doi:10.1016/j.biortech.2008.12.006.
Local Vehicle Miles:

MEND clients most commonly drive cars like mid-late 1990s Nissan Altimas and Toyota Corollas. They avoid 1 round-trip per week to the grocery store, reducing total miles traveled by 208. For these cars, according to the EPA at www.FuelEconomy.Gov —

  • Average city MPG: 17 Average carbon intensity of a gallon of gas: 446 grams CO2
  • Total GHG Reduction Per Family Garden: 54 lbs of CO2 over 5 years
  • Dietary Shift Toward More Local, Organic and Fruit/Vegetable-Based Diet
Rough Estimate: 1,323 lbs of CO2 over 5 years
Weber CL, Matthews HS. 2008. Food-Miles and the Relative Climate Impacts of Food Choices in the United States. Environ. Sci. Technol., 2008, 42 (10), 3508–3513 DOI: 10.1021/es702969f.
Kulak M, Graves A, Chatterton J. 2013. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions with urban agriculture: a Life Cycle Assessment perspective. Landscape Urban Plan, 111, 68–78.
http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/food-and-our-planet/food-and-climate-change/
Kim B, Neff R, Measurement and communication of greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. food consumption via carbon calculators. Ecological Economics (2009), doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2009.08.017
Sarah DeWeerdt, 'Is Local Food Better?,' World Watch Magazine, May/June 2009, Volume 22, No. 3. http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6064
Direct Carbon Sequestration By Plants

MEND families plant an average of 3 fruit trees with their gardens. We assumed each tree will live, on average, for at least 25 years. We used the camphor tree as a baseline for calculations. Nearly 500 lbs of CO2 would be stored in the tree itself and anther 2,500 lbs of CO2 would be saved through lower energy use in cooling/heating systems.

Total greenhouse gas reduction: 9,000 lbs of CO2 over 25 years

CUFR Tree Carbon Calculator, developed by Center for Urban Forest Research, Pacific Southwest Research Station, US Forest Service, in partnership with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. http://www.fs.usda.gov/ccrc/tools/tree-carbon-calculator-ctcc

MEND Greenhouse Reductions Per Garden: 10,500 lbs of CO2

Budget: Lumber: $110, Soil: $69, Pins: $12, Irrigation: $60, Tools: $90, Composter: $20, Sales Tax: $36, Operating Costs: $40

Total: $438

BOTTOM LINE:

You reduce an additional 24 lbs of CO2 for every dollar you donate.


In the early 1970’s, MEND — Meet Each Need with Dignity — opened its doors in an effort to transform the lives of the neediest residents of the Northeast San Fernando Valley – poor children and their struggling families. MEND has grown primarily by word-of-mouth into the largest poverty agency in the San Fernando Valley, hosting 37,000 client visits per month.

It stands out as one of the most efficient, leanest operating nonprofit in existence, thanks to its innovative use of volunteers giving more than 16,600 hours every month.

Less than 6% of revenues go to overhead. Every other bit of support goes directly to programs that that provides emergency food, clothing, medical, vision and dental care, job skills training and job placement assistance, English as a Second Language classes, youth activities, and a Christmas program.

Although MEND is dedicated to relieving the effects of poverty, its underlying mission is to provide the means and the path to self-sufficiency: to “break the bonds of poverty.” 


The Grow Together Program

More than 75% of all MEND clients have household incomes of less than $10,000 per year, and that 48% suffer from a diet-related illness. In the poor neighborhoods in and around Pacoima, growing numbers of people are suffering from their lack of access to healthy food they can afford. As a result, diet-related illness are skyrocketing.


Grow Together promotes good health to its participants through access to fresh produce, the exercise involved in gardening, and educational workshops on topics like cooking, canning, and nutrition.

Participating families are also provided with fruit trees and tree care workshops. Grow Together families are given the opportunity to engage in an activity where they can come together and give back to their communities by sharing what they learned and harvested.

Participating Families use the people and climate-friendly techniques out thereOrganic farming — no herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and petroleum-based fertilizers — Drip irrigation and straw as crop cover to reduce water use — Composting — turning plant waste into nourishment for the next generation of plants, not filling landfills — No Till — Companion Planting – putting plants together whose needs and by-products complement each other.


So far the project has built home gardens for 163 families, and provided the training and support to ensure their success.

To combat hunger, build home gardens, and promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles, the MEND Grow Together Project has partnered with community organizations and individuals. In building all 163 home gardens, the MEND Grow Together Project works with the Sylmar High School Horticulture Department to provide participating families with seedlings. It is currently working with Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers who provide the training for Grow Together families. More than 150 volunteers have dedicated their time to this program so far and in 2015 alone, volunteers contributed nearly 1,700 hours of service.

In the early 1970’s, MEND — Meet Each Need with Dignity — opened its doors in an effort to transform the lives of the neediest residents of the Northeast San Fernando Valley – poor children and their struggling families

Starting as a small group of volunteers working from a garage, MEND has grown primarily by word-of-mouth into the largest poverty agency in the San Fernando Valley, hosting 37,000 client visits per month.

It stands out as one of the most efficient, leanest operating nonprofit in existence, thanks to its innovative use of volunteers giving more than 16,600 hours every month.

Less than 6% of revenues go to overhead. Every other bit of support goes directly to programs that that provides emergency food, clothing, medical, vision and dental care, job skills training and job placement assistance, English as a Second Language classes, youth activities, and a Christmas program.

Although MEND is dedicated to relieving the effects of poverty, its underlying mission is to provide the means and the path to self-sufficiency: to ‘break the bonds of poverty.’ MEND provides the basic human needs vital to day-to-day survival as well as education, training, opportunities, and support essential to reducing and ultimately eliminating reliance on public and private assistance. Most importantly, MEND provides these services in a manner that maintains the dignity and self-esteem of recipients.

Each month, more than 16,600 hours are donated by volunteers from a broad range of backgrounds and income levels; all joining together to act as people helping people. Each person plays a vital role in meeting the mission of MEND. From the distribution of food, clothing to assistance in job training and placement, volunteers give MEND life.

Grow Together

More than 75% of all MEND clients have household incomes of less than $10,000 per year, and that 48% suffer from a diet-related illness. In the poor neighborhoods in and aroud Pacoima, like communities across the country, growing numbers of people are suffering from their lack of access to healthy food they can afford. As a result, diet-related illness are skyrocketing.

Grow Together tackles both these problems by empowering immigrant families to make use of their unique knowledge and skills. Though many of the families served by the program grew up in farming communities, they’ve lacked the resources here to start home gardens of their own.

Launched in the spring of 2013, Grow Together is a community initiative created to empower disadvantaged families in the northeast San Fernando Valley to work towards self-reliance and greater food security. It promote good health to its participants through access to fresh produce, the exercise involved in gardening, and educational workshops on topics like cooking, canning, and nutrition.

Participating families are also provided with fruit trees and tree care workshops. Grow Together families are given the opportunity to engage in an activity where they can come together and give back to their communities by sharing what they learned and harvested. Tomatoes, melons, squash, cucumbers, peppers, kale, chard, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, green beans, cilantro, basil, rosemary and thyme are just some of the most common crops.

Families use the people and climate-friendly techniques out there

  • Organic — no herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and petroleum-based fertilizers
  • Drip irrigation and straw as crop cover to reduce water use
  • Composting — turning plant waste into nourishment for the next generation of plants, not filling landfills
  • No Till — Companion Planting – putting plants together whose needs and by-products complement each other.

So far the project has built home gardens for 163 families, and provided the training and support to ensure their success.

To combat hunger, build home gardens, and promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles, the MEND Grow Together Project has partnered with community organizations and individuals. In building all 163 home gardens, the MEND Grow Together Project works with the Sylmar High School Horticulture Department to provide participating families with seedlings. It is currently working with Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers who provide the training for Grow Together families. More than 150 volunteers have dedicated their time to this program so far and in 2015 alone, volunteers contributed nearly 1,700 hours of service.


One of the reasons that MEND is amazing is because they are powered by volunteers.

Like Climate Cents, they use their staff to manage an enthusiastic and talented group of every day people so their impact is multiplied many times over.

There are endless opportunities to help out their work of supporting low-income families in the most dignified way possible.

We suggest getting started with their Grow Together and Food Justice program.

You can help out as a gardener, someone who helps sort fresh produce for the food pantry, and more.

Click here to sign up.


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