Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What Does Rotary Mean to You? Mari Chael's Story

Mari Chael is one of the more vivacious, engaging, personalities in our club! Her energy and enthusiasm for her community is endless and encouraging! She's an extremely versatile architect with designs that run the whole spectrum, from walkable communities, to civic buildings, to monuments, to small cottages, to affordable housing, and the list goes on.

Mari is also a big bike advocate. In fact, she is the founder of Bike SoMi and the current chair of the Green Mobility Network. GMN is a 305 grassroots organization that looks to further enable people to bike and walk safely, ultilizing a "greener" sense of mobility, by moving away from the pollution that comes from constantly driving cars to work. It is truly is a pleasure to see her in her element especially regarding bike advocacy, for she is, without a doubt, the STAR South Miami ambassador for switching from Automobile Mobility to Green Mobility!

One of Mari Chael's restoration projects!

Rotary Club of South Miami ( RCSM ) "Who or what brought you to Rotary?"

Mari, "I've known about Rotary most of my life, my husband was a Rotarian (Victor Doyle)  when our kids were little and so I was brought up in my adulthood with Rotary, seems like forever!

When I became an activist in South Miami, I thought I should join the Rotary Club because all of those people I've known for so many years who were out there doing good deeds for their community. And, by joining Rotary, this was really another means of tapping into a wonderful, positive group of people whose mission is improving our community and our world! So, anyway, my husband was a past President and after going to a Rotary convention, I was convinced that Rotary was like an extended family. And, to just to hear their stories, it's totally, totally inspirational!"

RCSM, "What is your favorite Rotary memory?"

Mari, "Oh? That is a trick question! I love everybody. in particular I love the ladies who selflessly put together the Arts Festival. I have to say, that of all of the Rotarians who are my favorites, I have a soft spot for Wendy (Wendy Lapidus) and Doreen (Doreen Reitnauer)."

RCSM "So, your favorite memory ties into the Arts Festival?"

Mari, "Well yeah! It's our major fundraiser and these ladies work year round to put it together both for our community and our foundation, and that kind of selfless giving, I really much admire!"

RCSM, "What would you like to see Rotary do going forward?"

Mari, "Well, I think the way we're going is good! I love the volunteer programs, I love the direction of editable foods, of helping the underserved in the community, like the homeless,  of boosting our sense of place, really everything we're doing is exactly the right thing!  I would like us to eventually grow organically and also have more participation in our volunteer, community events, and also, I would like to see us eventually reach 100% Rotary participation and I think that's doable! We still have a ways to go, but I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation!"

RCSM, "Thank you Mari!"

Mari, "Thank you! That was fun!"

Interview by Jeff McNabb

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Rotary Lecture: Asha Loring, Food Deserts and Food Insecurity, Privilege, Poverty and Consumption

Our lecture for May 2, 2017 was given by Asha Loring, the Executive Director and Founder of the Health in the Hood project. Asha, began her lecture with the question, "Who knows what a food desert is?" Most didn't raise their hands... 

So, what are Food Deserts?

Asha continued. "I can't take credit for the concept, I actually grew up building vegetable gardens in food deserts, my Dad ( Dr. Marvin Dunn, renowned author and former FIU professor) was the "OG", or original gardener."However,  Asha continued, "Growing your own food, as we can see in history, isn't a novel nor a brand new concept."

Most people don’t know about these "food deserts". And yet, they do exist AND there are those people who are “food insecure”. One way to describe a “food desert “ is to break it down into three basic categories or zones, namely, A, B and C. 

These zones range from the easiest to the most difficult access to healthy food. Unfortunately, a "food insecurity" usually occurs within a “C” zone which means poorer families will have to resort to cheaper and far less healthier alternatives!  These "C" zone food deserts are where we see with these “Mom and “Pop” corner stores, these “glorified” gas stations, where choices like Chef Boryadee and or Beef Jerky, become, due to economic hardship, the only viable substitute to taking the bus to go to the nearest Publix. 

What causes Food Deserts?

The three main reasons these food deserts exist are due to a lack of finances, a lack of transportation and a lack of education. Our President Elect, Felipe Vidal, also added “lack of commercial interest” from the grocery store chains in these kinds of under-developed neighborhoods to that list. Felipe lives in a A to B food desert zone and described most of the food he sees in Publix as “crap”. 

“But, what we’re all about is #fooddesertnomore!” Asha followed up with her own unique hashtag.

Building a better Garden

What Health in the Hood does, is slightly different than Asha’s Dad’s original project, for they build these vibrant vegetable gardens in very specific dilapidated lots. These are those areas most in need and most capable of getting the best “bang for the buck” for that particular urban community! 

They do this by addressing those main concerns which lead to food desert depravity. Such as, this easier access to the food, where, with these urban gardens, the vegetables are right there near their own back door, then, through garden management, they create new jobs helping somewhat with financial stability and ultimately, where they provide a new healthier form of education for parents and kids in how not only to eat healthier, but also how to make this healthier lifestyle sustainable! Health in the Hood truly is a totally inclusive and comprehensive community led approach!

Privilege, Poverty and Consumption

Towards the end of Asha’s lecture, she gave the club this quick play on words. “Take these three words, Privilege, Poverty and Consumption, and try to put them into a sentence and how these thoughts can relate to the food injustice we see in these urban communities.” 

No one from the club was game...

Except... Asha’s mother, Andrea, who was up to the task, “Some people of “Privilege, don’t realize how much “Poverty” affects the “Consumption” of healthy food which causes a nation wide health crisis”. 

"And that, ladies and gentlemen, is an educator!" as Asha proudly beamed about her mother!

Frankly, Asha's mother, in that impromptu sentence, summed up the whole issue of food injustice and why projects such as Health in the Hood play such a vital role in rebuilding urban communities! For it will be through innovators like Asha, that perhaps, one day, #fooddesertsnomore will become a reality and not just a fancy hashtag! 

Thank you Asha Loring and thank you Health in the Hood!

by Jeff McNabb