Jewish Food for Thought: Reimagining Food Security

Risa Alyson Cooper likes to say that her journey to becoming a Jewish environmentalist started at a church in Nelson, BC. While it may seem an unlikely beginning, that was where she realized that taking care of the earth by connecting people, land, and Jewish tradition was what she wanted to do.

Risa founded Shoresh, an organization in Ontario that offers community members meaningful opportunities to be responsible stewards of the world through nature-based Jewish education, healthy food production for vulnerable community members, environmental action, and sustainable Jewish products.

Ten years later, Shoresh has donated 4,000 pounds of organic produce, planted 11,042 trees, created 16 community gardens, and helped 20,000 people get their hands dirty.

Over the same period of time, the dramatic rise in the cost of living in the Lower Mainland has placed added pressure on families, especially low-income families and the working poor. It became clear that our community needed to take a fresh look at food security strategies that will ensure dignity and promote healthy choices for people in need, and raise awareness about available and accessible healthy food options.

That’s just what the Jewish Food Security Task Force did, under the leadership of co-chairs Renée Katz and Stan Shaw. The task force was the first ever to be led jointly by Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Services. They released their report a few months ago, and you can read it here

Shoresh describes its work as “tzedakah from the ground up,” and we can’t think of a better way to imagine the opportunity for connection created on the journey from farm to table – even if your journey takes you from Nelson to Toronto.

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