Severe and unusual winter storms recently swept much of the United States. After moving my fair share of snow and ice, I sat down to work. The issues of the day included food insecurity, expanding local food access and supporting local growers, the slow process of change, the difficulty people have knowing where to find sustainability resources, students struggling to balance academics with pandemic-pressured home and work environments, and finding the time to research and communicate what we do know to others. In other words, a pretty typical day for me. While some might be disheartened by these challenges, I see them as inspiring opportunities that challenge me to learn more, do more, network more, and share more.
Here are some compelling solutions and ways you can get involved in them:
Food Insecurity & Food Access and Sale Expansion
For the last two years, the WIC program offers double up bucks that double the value of WIC vouchers at area Farmers Markets. This makes a $20 voucher worth $40 in purchase power at places like the Mishawaka Farmers Market. More farmers are signing up to accept WIC vouchers and participation has risen exponentially each year. There is still money available to be used in this program! Promoting this opportunity and the use of it is key to its longevity and success.
Slow Process of Change (AKA your voice matters)
It is always exciting to see cool new sustainable projects appear in our communities! To those of us not involved, it can seem surprising, slow, or long overdue. For example, the new hydroelectric dam being installed in downtown South Bend is the result of at least 5 years of negotiations, regulations, and partnership negotiations that followed years of envisioning it as a functioning feature in the community. Reducing storm sewer overflows has been the result of decades of data gathering, modulating flows, and designing mitigation features that will support resilient infrastructure. Food insecurity could be addressed by starting to grow food where people need it.
What changes happen to address what issues? This is where your voice matters. County Council and Common Council meetings are easier than ever to attend (virtually) to learn and to speak. The South Bend Department of Community Investment even has an Engagement Specialist who works with the community. These are powerful resources available to us all.
We are pleased to offer a monthly series about incredible initiatives and approaches to sustainability that utilize innovation and entrepreneurship skills. They are focused on growing more engaged and healthy communities. You can learn more by joining us for one of the First Friday Innovation Conversations we are hosting, and be seeing past presentations on our YouTube channel.
Supporting one another
Listen, engage, and offer support even if you are struggling. If we can share our struggles, we can emerge as stronger, more resilient people and communities. By listening, you will learn. By listening, you show that you care. By listening, we expand our hearts and our communities.