Throughout Chanukah, we’re sharing our “8 sparks of light” providing inspiration and insight into the diversity of people working on a local level for a more transparent and just food system.
Years ago as a student at Oberlin College, I was in a coop that prided itself on excruciatingly thoughtful food policies. For hours we debated what type of sweeteners, milks, and produce to buy. My understanding of our food system grew to include questions of fair wages and fair trade, healthy farmers and low costs, and of course, whether it was feasible to pick up local milk on our coop tricycle. Those discussions opened my eyes to the realities of our global food system and gave me the questions that continue to guide my choices today.
It was through my experience leading and teaching with Teva (a flagship Jewish environmental education organization), that I began to connect more deeply with the Jewish values driving our food work: bal tashchit (reducing waste), treating workers fairly, tzar ba’alei chayim (ending animal suffering), taking time to bless the Source, people, and planet that create our food, and making choices from one generation to the next, with a long-term perspective.
When I moved to Boston for rabbinical school, I found my people at Ganei Beantown. During the biblical Shmita year of release a few years ago, I spent significant time teaching and thinking about Shmita-values: sharing economies, hyper-local relationship-building, and recommitting to just and accessible food systems. Ganei Beantown was on it. The executive director invited a few of us to design a Shmita Seder for the Boston Jewish Food Conference that year. The room was abuzz with conversation, connections, and excitement. Only four more years until the next one!
My current involvement in the Jewish Food Movement is primarily as an educator: teaching history through cooking, mapping our food systems with students of all ages, and advocating for chickens and tomato farmers.
My advice? Keep learning, stay engaged, and eat well.
If you find Laura’s story as inspiring as we do, please consider an end of year donation.