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GROW Method: Reduce Waste

We throw away HALF of our food...you, me, your neighbor, that cute person at work, your go-to bartender, and even the guests sitting at the table next to you in your favorite restaurant. That's about 165 BILLION dollars a year.
As a young twenty-something who lives alone, one of my biggest challenges with the GROW method is reducing waste. Every week I always attempt to buy exact proportions of food to last me a week, maybe two. Despite spending an hour planning meals and maybe two hours at the store and farmer’s markets, I find myself still disposing of wilting or just plain moldy fruits and veggies. Sometimes I cannot help but to buy a meal when I forget to bring lunch to work, or maybe I am just tired of cooking alone. After all, living in the small cold town just makes cozying up with a bowl of boxed tomato bisque more enticing. I can only imagine how distracting it must be living in the city with endless options of new and fun restaurants to enjoy. Before I joined Oxfam and had even learned about the GROW method, I never thought much about the food I was capable of wasting. Now, it’s on my mind whenever I think about food. 

We all make our lists and go to the grocery store, maybe with coupon clippings and of course a few reusable bags in hand. Yet, whoever you are, the occasional spontaneous event or invitation forces you to leave acorn squash or berries in the fridge. But there is a solution! I basically overlooked this option until a warm night in Chicago at Karyn’s on Green on October 16th. A small group of fellow foodies and Oxfam veterans alike sat around a table for the World Food Dinner. We had discussed Farmer’s Markets and how climate change really affected corn crops in Illinois. We saw it. We saw how it devastated farmers from all over the Midwest. It particularly hurt those who see their farmers every weekend, growing relationships for several years. A representative from Sisters of Our Planet mentioned freezing strawberries that were grown from our local farmers so that she could enjoy a fresh strawberry juice in the middle of winter. FREEZING! The solution was freezing your fruits and veggies!

One weekend I spent the time to meet my producers at a bustling farmer’s market and learn new recipes. Alas, during the week we continued to receive food at work. I went home wrapped my zucchini and carton of raspberries in paper towels and bagged them in re-usable freezable zip-lock bags. A week later I grilled zucchini and added it to my pasta for dinner. And I had a pint of raspberries to snack on with my yogurt. I used the same technique for soups I didn’t get a chance to eat the week I made it. The simple concept of freezing foods helps me reduce waste!

Compelled by Oxfam philosophy of food justice, I wanted to find more ways to reduce waste and even extend the uses of foods. A simple fact about me…I love raspberries and strawberries. I came across the idea of canning produce. My first reaction was my dislike for cans. When perusing instructions of canning, it just looks intimidating. Boiling, peeling, jarring, what kind of jar, pressure or water boiling? And why do they call it canning when glass jars are used? Regardless, I felt it an important practice. The process of canning is to preserve freshness of prepared food by creating a vacuum in a glass jar using heat. In the Midwest, there are plenty of produce for canning. It is important to note that there are books, online guides and classes in Chicago (Canning Across America and The Glass Rooster) to learn about the art and science of canning. Some guides include how long different foods can last in the freezer.
I have a New Year’s Resolution. Reduce waste, sure. That is easy to say, but I have a plan. This year, I plan to incorporate The GROW Method by freezing food when necessary (like a cereal-for-every-meal sort of week) and start canning. I am thinking of a class...

Megan Nakra


Apply Now to Become an Oxfam Action Corps Organizer!

Last year at about this same time I began searching the web for ways I could get involved with social justice causes in Chicago.  I Googled away, but kept coming back to Oxfam America Action Corps.  I’d always been interested in Oxfam’s work in the U.S. and around the globe, so  figured I’d look further into it. Turns out, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made; this past year has been full of amazing experiences, loads of education, opportunities I would have never expected to have (such as lobbying in D.C. and attending the WorldFood Prize dialogue!), lots of travel, groovy concerts, many absolutely terrific new friends, and best of all, a feeling of making a difference as I joined Oxfam’s Action Corps in the fight to end world hunger. 

So I sat down today to write a blog about why I think everyone should at least consider applying to become an OxfamAction Corps Organizer when I came across an awesome blog written by a member of the Iowa Oxfam Action Corps.  They really couldn’t have said it any better (so I’m not even going to try!).  Check it out:

Top Five Reasons Why You Should Attend Oxfam Action Corps Organizer Training

5. It’s Free! The 4-day training held in Washington D.C. covers your travel, hotel, and meals. The staff at Oxfam America go to extreme lengths to make the training a memorable, inspirational, and educational experience. They recognize the value their volunteer organizers bring to the mission of Oxfam and you’ll be treated very well. In return, they ask for your one-year commitment to building a movement for social justice in your city.

4. It’s in Washington, D.C.! What an incredible place filled with so much history! You'll be in classroom style training most of the day but your evenings will be free so you'll have the chance to explore D.C. with your newly made friend/organizers. And, in your final day at organizer training, you'll walk across Capitol Hill to lobby your congressional representatives and ask them to support a world that's fair for everyone.

3. You Can Make a Difference! Your energy and passion for social justice will take you to some amazing places over your year with Oxfam. And it all starts at organizer training. You'll learn why these issues matter in today's world and that only through our combined efforts can we truly change the world. Organizer training brings you closer to your own personal values and reinforces the notion that we're better together than we are divided.

2. You'll Meet New People! You’ll meet some amazing individuals (like yourself) hand-picked by Oxfam leadership to spread awareness about social justice issues in major cities across the U.S. Be prepared to be inspired by their energy, commitment, and passion for making the world we live in a better place for all.
1. Opportunities Abound! You already have the power to be a leader – maybe you need that extra push to develop your skills or maybe you’re already a seasoned organizer and are looking for a new opportunity. With Oxfam Action Corps, that’s exactly what you get – opportunity. Most of all, the opportunity to grow as a community leader and as a private citizen. The leadership team at Oxfam America is ready to help you succeed with the organizer training and support throughout your year. Your year will be what you make of it, so make it a good one and have some fun!

(The above 5 reasons are from the Iowa Action Corps, found here.)
Sounds awesome, right?  If you’ve been on the fence about joining us, or are looking for a way to get involved in a great volunteer organization in Chicago, definitely take 5-10 minutes and fill out the application here. All applications are due on February 14th, so don't wait! 
If you’re still unsure, join us for our monthly meeting (everyone is welcome, always!):
When?  January 17th at 6pm
Where? Corner Bakery on  on 56 W. Randolph St. in the loop  
How? Look for our "Oxfam" table sign!
The meetings are very casual and we love meeting new faces, so come check us out!

First Person: Voices, video, and photos from Oxfam's fight against poverty