Tables of Transformation


  • This topic has 1 voice and 0 replies.
Viewing 0 reply threads
  • Author
    • #216883

      By Michelle Velez

      I have sat at many tables in my life, and each has shaped my view of the world.

      My kitchen table at home instilled in me at an early age the value of shared conversation, family bonds, and wholesome food. I carried these values with me to my role as “head chef” among my roommates in my college apartment, sharing recipes, new foods and moments of friendship that overflow from our tiny table and onto the stove. When I volunteered at the Center for Environmental Transformation in Camden, New Jersey, I sat around a long community table after preparing a meal with other volunteers using vegetables from the Center’s community garden. The food on this table was imbued with hope for a future with equal food access and our conversation was electrified by a newfound calling towards environmental justice. Then I spent a semester abroad studying organic agriculture in rural Panama, and I was introduced to yet another table. It was a picnic table handmade by my homestay father, and the food upon it came directly from the hands of neighboring farmers. Our conversations revolved around the small, yet growing, Panamanian organic agriculture movement, and detailed a history of dedication, daring, and innovation. I returned to the United States with a broader perspective, which I was able to apply to the next table I sat at: one covered with fresh vegetables under the shade of a tree in the center of an urban garden in the Bronx. The conversation over this table was also in Spanish, focusing on a shared understanding of the importance of community cultural spaces and the empowerment that accompanies growing one’s own food.

      All of these tables and shared conversations over meals have led me to the Public Interest Law Center’s Garden Justice Legal Initiative. I am thrilled to be an intern for the spring semester to support Philadelphia communities in their efforts to reconnect with their land, their culture, and each other through community gardening. I am especially excited to be working to coordinate the Soil Safety Working Group in collaboration with the Food Policy Advisory Council. After working with urban gardeners in New York City during an internship with GreenThumb at the NYC Parks Department last summer, I became aware of the importance of access to resources for community gardeners to address potential soil contamination in urban gardens. My senior thesis with the Department of Geography and the Environment at Villanova University, Uptake of heavy metal contaminants by vegetables in urban gardens, further explores potential soil contamination in urban community gardens by analyzing how different types of vegetables uptake heavy metal contaminants in a laboratory to determine which vegetables are preferable to grow in potentially contaminated soil. My thesis also assesses heavy metal contamination levels of soil samples from community gardens in the greater Philadelphia area in order to provide relatable results to local gardeners. I hope to share these results with the Garden Justice Legal Initiative’s gardener network to amplify the impact of my study, as well as learn more about what resources are currently available to gardeners to improve soil quality.
      Philly Food Justice

Viewing 0 reply threads
  • The topic ‘Tables of Transformation’ is closed to new replies.