The Ph.D. was an epidemiologist in Tulare County, California. But she changed courses, and now picks fruit and vegetables in a poverty-stricken area and donates it to local food pantries. There are a lot of farms in California’s Central Valley where Ramirez grew up with parents who were farm workers. And a lot of the food on those farms goes to waste because grocery stores won’t buy imperfect produce.
According to the NPR story that introduced me to Ramirez’ work, food pantries fear sending their employees to pick produce on farms willing to give it away because of liability issues.
As one who studied diseases in populations, Ramirez noticed “high rates of diabetes and obesity, paired with widespread food insecurity,” NPR reported.
So she jumped in to solve a problem, and with her husband, created a volunteer group that harvests food. In 2013, they picked 20,000 pounds of produce from farms and backyards.
“If I think about the overwhelming nature of the problem, it’s so much easier not to do anything. And there’s a lot of people who say the problem is so big, nothing we can ever do will fix it,” Ramirez says in the NPR story. “Well, if we all took that position, nothing would ever get done.”
We have a garden at our church, operated not by our congregation, but by a group of women who want to help feed the hungry. They call themselves Vacant2Vegetables (which refers to vacant land turned into produce) and they donate their harvest to the local food bank.
I bet you have a farm or community garden near you where you could pitch in and help get food to people who suffer nutritionally because of poverty. Perhaps your knees aren’t as stable as they once were and gardening seems near impossible. There are others ways to help. You could volunteer at the local food bank or donate food there. Or you could write a check to help an organization like Ramirez’ that operates on a tight budget.
If you know of no organization like that in your area, send a gift to the ELCA’s World Hunger. They can put it to good use. Can you think of others ways to help?
Terri Lackey is managing editor of Gather magazine.
You can send your gift through Women of the ELCA, and we’ll pass on 100 percent of it to World Hunger. Make your check out to Women of the ELCA and put World Hunger on the memo line. Watch a video story of Ramirez’ work.