They set out to grow affordable food and found an incredible community.
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Jamie Chen had never thought much about food production until her mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Her mom's doctor recommended organic foods, something Jamie had never heard of. Following doctor's orders, the family went to Whole Foods, but the prices were astronomical compared with the price tags at the local Chinese markets where they usually shopped. She told us, "My dad saw the receipt and immediately said we should never go back."

With the family facing huge medical costs, it was just too expensive.


Jamie and her mom, spending quality time in a garden. Image by Jamie Chen, used with permission.

Eventually, the family found a cheaper, bulk organic place about 25 minutes away from them where they'd stock up on foods for Jamie's mom. It was trial and error for the whole family. She remembers her mom cooking "weird colored rice, which none of us really liked, so she would make two pots — one for her and a mix of white and brown rice for us."

The entire experience was an aha moment for Jamie that set the wheels turning. She started thinking about food and where it was produced.

Image via La Mesa Verde, used with permission.

Fresh produce can be expensive — even more so for anyone seeking organic foods, which can cost up to 47% more than the alternative.

If a family is already struggling to pay its bills, advice like Jamie's mom got from her doctor is just not feasible. Growing your own food can help, but many people don't have access to the resources and skills needed to garden.

So when Jamie heard about La Mesa Verde, she knew she had to get involved.

The gardening community La Mesa Verde empowers families by providing them with access to food and skills.

Their target group? Low-income families who want to eat better but can't afford to do so. Located in San Jose, California, La Mesa Verde is ready and willing to help — since their founding in 2009, they've built gardens for over 500 families and currently have 120 families actively participating in the program. Jamie is currently the manager at La Mesa Verde.

She told Upworthy, "I saw the immense potential that this community has for building power and making real change in the food system." So she jumped on board.

Through La Mesa Verde, families gain both the skills and knowledge necessary to grow vegetables — allowing them access to fresh, homegrown foods without putting their budgets at risk.

Image via SPUR/Flickr.

Over the course of a year, families are taught everything possible about growing vegetables and delicious ways to prepare them.

And while they join La Mesa Verde seeking fresh food options, they also find community. Jamie explains, "People help each other out. They go to each other’s houses to plant trees, they share seeds, they share recipes."

Many participants devote so much of themselves to the program and to this way of life that when the year ends, they aren't ready to leave La Mesa Verde behind.

Image via La Mesa Verde, used with permission.

Seeing the community they'd created, La Mesa Verde created a more advanced gardening program for members who waned to remain active beyond the first year. And those members refer their friends, neighbors, and family into the program. And as the community grows, so does its power.

While gardening lies at the core of La Mesa Verde, it's only just the beginning.

When Jamie's mom passed away, Jamie took over grocery shopping and cooking for her family. At the time, she wasn't thinking about activism or community building. She just wanted to heal, and to help her family to heal.

But after meeting with members of La Mesa Verde and hearing about their health struggles, their fight to heal their bodies after cancer diagnosis, and their inability to find affordable fresh produce in their traditional markets, Jamie saw how closely their experiences mimicked hers. She says,

"I see my mom in them, this soft but defiant commitment to having at least some power over what goes into our bodies that have already been damaged. I see hope, too, that we can try together to make real food that doesn't make us sick available to everyone. Cancer can make a family really lonely, so having [the La Mesa Verde] community becomes doubly important when we are sick."

A year ago, La Mesa Verde started a campaign to transform empty lots in San Jose into community gardens. In December 2015, their efforts were rewarded: The push to transform the empty lots was named the third legislative priority for 2016.

Image via La Mesa Verde, used with permission.

Members are organizing and finding out how and where they can effect the most change. And with the size of their community and the lives that they've changed, they'll be unstoppable.

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

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Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are feeling the weight of it growing heavier and heavier. We miss normal life. We miss our friends. We miss travel. We miss not having to mentally measure six feet everywhere we go.

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Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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The subject of late-term abortions has been brought up repeatedly during this election season, with President Trump making the outrageous claim that Democrats are in favor of executing babies.

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Pete Buttigieg, who has become a media surrogate for the Biden campaign—and quite an effective one at that—addressed this issue in a Fox News town hall when he was on the campaign trail himself. When Chris Wallace asked him directly about late-term abortions, Buttigieg answered Wallace's questions is the best way possible.

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When it comes to the topic of race, we all have questions. And sometimes, it honestly can be embarrassing to ask perfectly well-intentioned questions lest someone accuse you of being ignorant, or worse, racist, for simply admitting you don't know the answer.

America has a complicated history with race. For as long as we've been a country, our culture, politics and commerce have been structured in a way to deny our nation's past crimes, minimize the structural and systemic racism that still exists and make the entire discussion one that most people would rather simply not have.

For example, have you ever wondered what's really behind the term Black Pride? Is it an uplifting phrase for the Black community or a divisive term? Most people instinctively put the term "White Pride" in a negative context. Is there such a thing as non-racist, racial pride for white people? And while we're at it, what about Asian people, Native Americans, and so on?

Yes, a lot of people raise these questions with bad intent. But if you've ever genuinely wanted an answer, either for yourself or so that you best know how to handle the question when talking to someone with racist views, writer/director Michael McWhorter put together a short, simple and irrefutable video clip explaining why "White Pride" isn't a real thing, why "Black Pride" is and all the little details in between.


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