Project Ubuntu Visits CFB

From Food for Thought, March 2013

Staff newsletter for Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona

Daniel Becton is the creator of Project Ubuntu, a year-long trip celebrating one organization in every state. The trip examines the dynamics of “us” and “them” and meeting others at a place of being human, as opposed to defining them with limited identity groups. Daniel visited Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona during Week 26 of 51 in order to support its work and learn from its people. The scale of Community Food Bank’s impact is impressive, but far more inspiring is the quality of the people behind the work.

Food Bank staff members combine a thoughtful humility with a passion for social justice that cultivates a beautiful, benevolent ambition. Through this lens we can see the goal is not “efficiency” but the inefficient business of “everyone,” which must be the goal because as Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” A community built on a respect for humanity has to step back and observe who is on the margins, who is ignored and doesn’t have a voice. Robert Ojeda’s leadership with the CFRC is doing exactly that, and it’s changing the landscape of social work and food justice.

During the week I was incredibly fortunate to turn soil at Las Milpitas de Cottonwood Farm, sling frozen eat into grocery carts to support access to emergency food, transplant tomatoes in the Nuestra Tierra demonstration garden, and put non-perishables together for thousands of bags in the TEFAP warehouse. Along the way I served with salt-of-the earth types like Norma, a senior transplant from the midwest (you have a few of those here, I noticed); Michelle, a single mom who moved south from the Navajo Reservation to be close to her daughter; and Frank, a Scotsman who has become a snowbird from Toronto. I was equally inspired by the staff members I met that guided these efforts, and in particular: Lauren and Rosie, whose service through the JVC is uniquely challenging; Zak, who left the Air Force with an insatiable thirst for wisdom and social action; Melissa, whose friendly presence suits her perfectly to cultivating cultivators of home gardens; and Zuleima and Iliana, whose warmth as the ambassadors to the organization is crucial and deeply appreciated.

No one inspired me more than Yvonne, a beacon of light in the trenches of food justice. Every day she welcomes whoever walks into the distribution area and mobilizes a cohesive, energized team of emergency food distributors. Working with Yvonne and Zak, I realized that the measure of production, or the “bottom line,” isn’t the amount of food moved, but the amount of love exchanged. With that powerful exchange embedded in 62,800 meals per day, one can see the goal is not to accumulate power but to empower love. In this way your work at the Food Bank fulfills the perspective that Dr. King outlined: “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice.”

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