This spotlight is a feature in a series of the USDA Community Food Project Competitive Grant Program (CFP). Grantees are doing some of the most innovative and collaborative projects to change local and regional food systems. WhyHunger’s Food Security Learning Center — also funded by a CFP grant — is profiling these organizations through dynamic stories and pictures, to give a real flavor of what the projects look like and how they’re accomplishing their goals. Up today: Vida Verde Farms — Earth Learning Center, Homestead, FL. Story and pictures by David Hanson.

vida verde farms

Juan Lopez arrived to the US as an exile, with the Coast Guard flying overhead. He was in a twenty-seven-foot boat with around forty other Cubans. They landed on Cayo Hueso (Bone Key, as the Cubans refer to Key West). He took a bus to Miami. It was 1980. Castro had thrown up his hands and allowed for dissidents to leave the island after a wave of insurrection, including a busload of defectors who crashed through the gates of the Cuban-Peruvian embassy. For six months fishing boats and small leisure boats shuttled Cubans across the Florida Straits, bringing them to America.

Juan, then in his late 20s, was lucky. He had family already living in south Florida. He was a semi-skilled tradesman and he found construction work in Miami. For two decades he worked in construction, making decent money, supporting his wife and family of ten children. He paid $750/month in rent for an apartment.

Then the construction company laid him off. He couldn’t find other work. He couldn’t pay the bills or the rent. His wife and three kids have diabetes so the medical bills added up. Juan had to move his family out of the apartment. He even lived under a bridge for a few days. Eventually, after exhausting options in Miami, Juan moved with his wife and the three kids still living at home to Homestead where there was a homeless shelter managed by the Homeless Trust of Miami-Dade County.

vida verde farmsJuan points in the direction of that shelter, the Chapman Shelter, as he walks me through the Vida Verde Farm. The five-acre poly-culture farm is part of a major redevelopment of the former Homestead Air Force Base. The base was destroyed in Hurricane Andrew and has since become an Air Reserve base with a chunk of land donated to the Homeless Trust. The Chapman Shelter opened in 1998, offering meals and refuge for homeless residents of the county for up to one year. But that left a difficult transition into conventional housing for many people.

Read the full profile at Community Voicesa WhyHunger digital storytelling site showcasing voices of leaders and communities across the country on the front lines of food justice.


Are you in New York City? Want to keep that glow of inspiration after the People’s Climate March this weekend? This Sunday at 6:00pm, Saulo Araujo, WhyHunger’s Global Movements Program Director, will take part in a panel discussion at Photoville about the power of storytelling to affect social change.

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Photo by Alfredo Bini, photojournalist and panel participant.

The panel, Land Grabbing: Raising Awareness with Multimedia, will discuss how photography and multimedia can be used as a tool to increase awareness of systemic global issues that are often not covered by mainstream media outlets, using land grabs as a case study.

Photoville, the modular pop-up venue built from 50-plus shipping containers, returns to Brooklyn Bridge Park in New York City for 10 days of photo exhibitions, talks and workshops. Expecting over 80,000 visitors in its third year, Photoville is an immersive and massive photographic event.

Saulo joins photojournalist Alfredo Bini, Human Rights Watch Program Director Iain Levine, media executive Greg Moyer and Environmental Sciences professor Paolo D’Odorico for the panel.

The panel will take place on Sunday, September 21 from 6:00-7:30pm at the Photoville Talk Area, at the storefront of One Brooklyn Bridge Park at the corner of Joralemon Street & Fuman Street. The talk is free and seating is first come, first serve. Sign up in advance to claim your seat at Eventbrite.


By Judy Belue, Director of the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative (DFFI). DFFI is a coalition of community stakeholders committed to establishing sustainable, equitable food systems in the Mississippi Delta.

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Dr. H. Jack Geiger with Dr. John W. Hatch during construction on the Delta Health Center, 1968.

Dr. H. Jack Geiger came to the Mississippi Delta fifty years ago during the Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964. His work as a field coordinator for the Medical Committee for Human Rights led him to understand the direct connections between poverty, health, social equity and access to basic human rights such as healthy food and clean water. Having studied in South Africa during medical school, he’d seen a model for community health care rooted in community empowerment, and set out to replicate (along with a sister clinic in Boston) the first community health center in the United States — the Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou, MS. The Delta Health Center (DHC) was the beginning of the community health center movement which today has 1,200 community health centers with 9,300 sites serving nearly 23 million patients each year nationwide.

Dr. Geiger and others established DHC in 1967 not just as a medical care facility but as a community-based institution that embraced a holistic, community-invested approach to achieve and maintain better patient health. Members of the community were active participants in the DHC, serving as board members and staff members in direct opposition to the racist assumptions that poor black residents were unable to participate in decisions regarding their personal health and the future of the community. In addition to traditional medical services (including home care provided by nurses to accommodate the distances rural folk were required to travel for basic services), Dr. Geiger began prescribing “food as medicine” and established production farms in the community to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to patients. When called upon to defend his practice of writing actual prescriptions for food, Dr. Geiger silenced the skeptics by famously responding “the last time I checked my medical texts, the treatment for malnutrition was food.” Today prescribing food and other basic resources to prevent illness is the new paradigm in health care treatment.

On Saturday, August 16, 2014, the Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou celebrated the dedication of its new 26,000 square foot state-of-the-art medical center in honor of Dr. H. Jack Geiger. The Center is a testament to Dr. Geiger’s vision and leadership in binding together food, medicine and civil rights, and to the progress that has been made in providing accessible health care to Delta communities in Bolivar, Sunflower and Washington counties.

The Delta Fresh Foods Initiative (DFFI) was very honored to be recognized as a DHC partner at the grand opening event. As a part of our mission to build sustainable, equitable and local food systems, Delta Fresh Foods Initiative recently installed “edible” landscaping in front of the Center. A flourishing raised bed vegetable garden and numerous fruit trees and bushes are already providing patients with free access to fresh, locally grown produce. This year, DFFI will install additional edible landscaping at the expanded Geiger Center as well as at their clinic in the Indianola community in partnership with DFFI member, My Brother’s Keeper.

We are proud to participate in the great legacy of the Delta Health Center, and we see this as a great step toward establishing statewide institutional commitment to including and supporting fresher, more nutritious and sustainable local foods to all of our communities.

For more information about Delta Health Center, contact Ann Jackson at 202-374-5700. For more information and updates regarding the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative, visit or call Judy Belue at 662-404-5004.

WhyHunger began working with community organization in the Mississippi Delta in 2010, which grew into the Delta Fresh Foods Initiative. WhyHunger continues to support the growth of the coalition. To learn more, see Building Community Power, a hub for the stories, resources and impact from WhyHunger’s four-year collaboration with grassroots networks.


food sovereignty prizeToday’s post is a press release by the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance. 

Des Moines, IA — The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) is honored to name the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) of Palestine, based in Gaza and the West Bank, and Community to Community Development/Comunidad a Comunidad (C2C) of Bellingham, Washington, as co-recipients of the 2014 Food Sovereignty Prize.

Their stories of continuous struggle to defend the rights of their communities – farmers and fishers in the occupied Palestinian territories and migrant Mexican farm workers in Washington State, both seeking to produce their own food, on their own land, in their home communities – stand in stark contrast to the storylines coming from agribusiness: that technological changes to crops can meet human needs and resolve hunger.

Palestine has been under Israeli occupation for decades and this summer faced heightened pressure, including thousands killed and many more injured from bombings, destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, farms, and fishing boats, and hundreds of arrests without due process, and the continued building of settlements on Palestinian farmland. UAWC builds farmers cooperatives and seed banks, and supports women’s leadership, while continuing to seek its members’ human rights to food, land, and water.

“This important prize inspires UAWC to carry on its work in defending Palestinian farmers’ rights against the brutal Israeli violations, both through supporting small-scale farmers and fishermen toward their food sovereignty and rights to land and water, and also through coordination with local and international movements for social justice and human rights,” said Khaled Hidan, General Director of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in Palestine.

In Washington State, amid failed immigration policies that criminalize working families, Community to Community Development has supported and worked with immigrant farm workers to develop farmworker-owned cooperatives, organize a successful nutrition education project called Cocinas Sanas, and promote domestic fair trade in regional assemblies and meetings. Most recently, C2C has supported an emerging farm worker union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, and organized a national boycott of Sakuma Farms, their employer, who withheld pay, provided poor housing, and has since retaliated against the workers. Familias Unidas por la Justicia recently won a settlement for wage theft and had a Superior Court Judge rule uphold their right to organize – but their fight is not over.

“In honoring Community to Community, the USFSA honors indigenous farmworkers in the U.S. Displaced by NAFTA, these peasant farmers from Mexico are practicing a tradition of struggle for justice. Together, C2C and Familias Unidas are promoting food sovereignty in rural Washington State and challenging the corporate agricultural interests that are controlling our food system,” said Rosalinda Guillen, Executive Director of Community to Community Development.

The Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded on the evening of October 15in Des Moines, IA, at the Historical Building. The Food Sovereignty Prize challenges the view that simply producing more through industrial agriculture and aquaculture will end hunger or reduce suffering. The world currently produces more than enough food, but unbalanced access to wealth means the inadequate access to food. Real solutions protect the rights to land, seeds and water of family farmers and indigenous communities worldwide and promote sustainable agriculture through agroecology. The communities around the world who struggle to grow their food and take care of their land have long known that destructive political, economic, and social policies, as well as militarization, deprive communities of their rights.  These are the root causes of want, hunger and poverty.

The USFSA represents a network of food producers and labor, environmental, faith-based, social justice and anti-hunger advocacy organizations. Additional supporters of the 2014 Food Sovereignty Prize include Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – Des Moines, and Occupy the World Food Prize, along with media sponsor EcoWatch.

For event updates and background on food sovereignty and the prize winners, visit Also, visit the Food Sovereignty Prize on Facebook ( and join the conversation on Twitter (#foodsovprize).

For more coverage of the Food Sovereignty Prize, see “Groups Defending Human Rights to Food and Water Receive Food Sovereignty Prize” on EcoWatch.