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 Welcometoterranova, "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 Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Welcometoterranova article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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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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Racist jokes are one of the more frustrating manifestations of racism. Jokes in general are meant to be a shared experience, a connection over a mutual sense of humor, a rush of feel-good chemicals that bond us to those around us through laughter.

So when you mix jokes with racism, the result is that racism becomes something light and fun, as opposed to the horrendous bane that it really is.

The harm done with racist humor isn't just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the "punching down" nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

British author and motivational speaker Paul Scanlon shared a story about interrupting a racist joke at a table of white people at an event in the U.S, and the lessons he drew from it illustrate this idea beautifully. Watch:

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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