Introducing a new non-profit started by Siri Deva Singh of Austin, TX, USA A few weeks ago I found myself out in the FreshGiving garden for the first harvest of our summer crop fifteen pounds of cucumbers clipped from lush, sprawling vines. These cukes were later dropped off to Hope Food Pantry in Austin, TX, […]
Introducing a new non-profit started by Siri Deva Singh of Austin, TX, USA
A few weeks ago I found myself out in the FreshGiving garden for the first harvest of our summer crop fifteen pounds of cucumbers clipped from lush, sprawling vines. These cukes were later dropped off to Hope Food Pantry in Austin, TX, where they were distributed to the hungry. With that, the FreshGiving vision became a reality.
The concept behind FreshGiving is pretty simple. We grow local, organic produce and donate it to hunger relief agencies and food banks in Austin. Everything is volunteer based right now– people working towards a common goal and enjoying the blessing of seva. I like to think of it as a pilot program. I’ve used every available piece of my backyard to get things started.
The vision is to get bigger. The idea for FreshGiving came to me one winter morning last year while I was working in my (then much smaller) garden. It came into my awareness with bright, expansive energy. It felt instantly alive. Though I spent a couple months rueing it over before I took the leap, my heart knew instantly it was a call from God and Guru to serve. In February, I started a small crowdfunding campaign and raised $200 to buy seed, soil amendments and infrastructure supplies. My wife and I matched it with a few hundred dollars of our own money and the journey began.
Travis County Texas has a hunger problem. Approximately 1 in 6 people go hungry in Austin. In research studies, the term used is “food insecure”. This means that people do not always know where their next meal is going to come from or they skip meals to pay other bills. The Austin economy is booming on the surface, but there’s an unpleasant underbelly to the city’s rapid growth. Property taxes and the cost of basic services have skyrocketed in the last several years. Wages outside of a select set of booming industries remain extraordinarily low. Increasingly, people are finding they cannot pay their bills. Nor can they afford to eat, which means that more and more, they’re turning to hunger relief agencies to get fed.
But the food that the hungry receive isn’t always the most nourishing. I did some volunteering at different agencies over the winter to get a better understanding of the hunger problem. One day I remember working with a team that cleaned and processed over a ton of donated food. My estimate is a least half of it was either candy, soda or some form of processed food high in high fructose corn syrup or preservatives. That’s food, yes. But whether it’s healthy is another question.
The idea behind Fresh Giving is to shift the goal from simply feeding people to nourishing them with healthy food and supporting them in living a healthy, happy lifestyle. Vegetables begin losing nutrients as soon as they are picked. Matters get worse if they are frozen or trucked thousands of miles in a refrigerated tractor trailer. The fresher the food is, the better it is for you. This is something simple we can all feel directly when we are attuned to our body, mind and consciousness. When we eat well, we feel
better. Helping the hungry do this is what FreshGiving is all about. We intend to widen our impact in the future.
The vision is to see FreshGiving grow into a mature nonprofit with salaried staff and a nice hunk of land over the course of the next several years. We are planning a
“Neighbor Grow” program for the upcoming winter season. This will involve picking up produce grown by volunteers in their home gardens and distributing it to hunger relief partners. We are also planning larger fundraisers in 2017 as we begin our push to acquire land.
On a personal level, I feel blessed to be a part of this seva. It is healing for me to be helping others, particularly those that our governments and society at large tend to forget about. I grew up in the Northeast amidst an “eat what you kill” culture. The general ethos was, “Hey. If you can’t make it on your own, tough. It’s not my responsibility to give you a handout.” Sweating to feed others has opened my heart more and helped me let go of these kinds of perspectives.