JCC Association Greening Initiative
What is a “greening” initiative for JCCs? We have been using this term as shorthand for a lot of big ideas. “Greening” means different things to different people, including conserving energy to avert climate change, eating organic and/or local food to protect land and health, promoting public transportation to protect air quality and protecting biodiversity, and exploring how Jewish texts and traditions relate to today’s environmental challenges, among many other things.
We have distilled the importance of sustainability into five pledges that constitue our “Greening Initiative” -
- JCC Association will support JCCs in engaging members in social action and Jewish learning that will promote caring for each other and the earth.
- JCC Association will provide JCCs with the tools to provide healthy environments and support quality of life in their facilities and in their communities.
- JCC Association will help JCCs to take a leadership role in inspiring and mobilizing Jewish and general community organizations to work together to build sustainable communities.
- JCC Association will help JCCs to reduce such environmental impacts resulting from their physical facilities.
- JCC Association will support JCCs in implementing environmentally responsible actions that have business benefits, such as enhancing brand value and employee loyalty, reducing expenditures, and engaging donors.
What Is JCC Grows?
JCC Grows is a healthy food and hunger-relief initiative that involves the creation and/or expansion of community gardens at JCCs and JCC camps. The initiative encourages the donation of most of the produce to food pantries and people in need, and promotes fresh food collections and connects JCCs to Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Our JCCs and camps are as diverse as our members, and the same can be said about their garden and food-related projects. With the goal of helping to make American children healthier, we are committed to promoting good nutrition, encouraging physical activity, Jewish learning and the value of social justice.
The cornerstone of JCC Grows is our community garden program. Since 2010 we have been partnering with the USDA’s People’s Garden initiative. In fact, JCC Association was the first national faith-based organization to register gardens with the USDA’s effort, which include gardens that fulfill three components: benefit the community, be collaborative, and incorporate sustainable practices (organic or grown with no pesticides and good conditions for the food producer). When First Lady Michelle Obama kicked off her Let’s Move initiative to end childhood obesity in one generation, JCC Association was right there to help support this effort as well. Our partnership with Let’s Move! has motivated us to synthesize the work we’re doing, disseminate resources, share best practices, and be part of a greater good.
Why Promote Fresh, Local Food?
While many Jewish institutions host canned food drives, it’s essential that we help make fresh, nutritious, affordable produce accessible to those in need. Too many people are living in food deserts, where it’s easier to find unhealthy, processed foods with little to no nutritional content, than healthier food grown in a sustainable way.
Gardens, Farmers Markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) allow us to eat locally, which is good for us and the planet by cutting down on food miles (food traveling from farm to plate), which contributes to carbon emissions and global climate change
Gardens are a way to connect to the land, to make things grow, and to learn about what Jewish texts say about protecting and caring for the land. Gardening is an opportunity for all ages to work together. It reminds us how delicious natural foods are, and teaches us that food doesn’t come from the store or the fast-food restaurant. Gardening is good exercise too. Gardens are the first step in the long-overdue return to a more healthy way of eating and living. Gardening is an opportunity to share in the process of creation, to forge a community, and to have fun!
Gardening Is for Everyone
Planting and growing a garden on the grounds of a JCC or camp is a way to engage people of all ages in a wide range of activities. It encourages children to spend time outdoors digging, bending, carrying, and working together. It gives experienced and talented gardeners the opportunity to share their knowledge. It introduces novice growers to the pleasures and mysteries of the natural world, and the challenges of horticulture. Garden-based programming is educational, experiential, and lends itself to a variety of opportunities.