Like many national holidays that were originally envisioned as days of reflection (think Memorial Day and Veterans Day) Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has become just another day off to many. Back in 1994, two US legislators and veterans of the Civil Rights movement, Senator Harris Wofford and Congressman John Lewis, saw that just eight years into its existence as a federal holiday, MLK Day was becoming less about King's legacy and more about a three day weekend. That year, they were able to lead Congress to pass a bill turning MLK Day into a "Day of Service." It was a not-too-subtle reminder that the third Monday in January is not a day to sleep in and laze around - it is a day to get out into our communities and give back.
So what's the connection between MLK Day and the sustainable food movement? Many of the problems we see in the food system today are, in fact, civil rights issues. With MLK Day right around the corner, we wanted highlight some specific opportunities to get out and champion a more sustainable, and just, food system this MLK Day, and every day. Lace up your shoes and get out there!
Here are just a few ideas:
- While you can, of course, volunteer anywhere and in any way you want, there is an "official" MLK Day site to help you find opportunities throughout the US. Volunteer Match is also an excellent resource to get in touch with organizations that need your help. Search for "food justice," "organic," "urban farm" or any other topic and you'll find plenty of opportunities.
- To find sustainable agriculture-focused grassroots groups, nonprofits and agencies, check out ATTRA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Their map compiles organizations, many of which are searching for volunteers, in all 50 states.
- If you'd like to help out on one of over 2,000 sustainable farms in the US for just a day or for several months, head to WWOOF USA.
- Farmers' markets are always looking for volunteer help, whether it's helping to staff farmers' tables, orient visitors or reach out to the surrounding community. Find your local farmers' market and ask the market manager stationed there if they need help!
- Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the US, serving over 46 million Americans in need. With about 200 food banks across the country, there are plenty of opportunities to lend a hand, from packing boxes to event planning to gardening.
- Interested in the big picture of how poverty, hunger and justice intersect? Look towards organizations like Oxfam America and Waste No Food to see how you can help take local steps towards global change.
Image "Stony Stoicism"by Adam Fagenon Flickr used under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.
This post was originally published in January 2016.