Name: Brian Kur
School: Basis Phoenix
Scheduled date of bar mitzvah:
Oct. 10, 2015 at Congregation Or Tzion
Describe your mitzvah project: For my mitzvah project, I focused on addressing food insecurity in low-income communities through a variety of volunteer experiences. My ultimate goal is to help to plant a community garden at Manistee Manor, a low-income senior residence in Glendale.
What inspired you to do this project? I was inspired to learn more about this problem after watching documentaries addressing nutrition, the obesity epidemic and food deserts in underprivileged communities. I’ve been learning about the problem and trying to understand the causes and possible solutions.
Why did you choose to work with this organization? In early May, I volunteered with the Lodestar Day Resource Center and St. Vincent De Paul Food Bank in downtown Phoenix. I helped to harvest an existing community garden and learned how community gardens get started. Later I met Diana Gregory, founder and CEO of the Diana Gregory Foundation (dianagregory.com), which brings farmers markets to low-income senior communities and teaches the residents how to eat and live healthy lifestyles. In early June, I had the opportunity, through the foundation, to volunteer at Manistee Manor to help with the farmers market and participate in the education workshop for the residents. I enjoyed both interacting with the residents and playing a leadership role in the program.
What was the process of getting the project off the ground? I met with representatives from Manistee Manor and the Diana Gregory Foundation and connected them with community garden experts. We received a proposal for what it would take to bring this vision to reality and now Diana is helping to secure the initial funding. I have pledged my financial support as well, from my tzedakah savings and a portion of my bar mitzvah gifts. I also plan to help prepare the grounds, plant the seeds and harvest the crops. Longer term, I will help to sustain the garden, as well as support other charitable causes, through my B’nai Tzedek Fund at the Jewish Community Foundation.
Describe the tasks you’ve had to complete, and the work you’ve had to do to complete the project: I learned about what different organizations are doing to address the problem and engaged in a variety of service learning experiences. I discovered the various ways organizations are providing immediate hunger relief and/or offering more sustainable solutions. Through my experiences, I am developing my views on the most effective ways to solve the problem of food insecurity.
How do you hope your project will affect the people it’s designed to benefit? The residents there will be empowered to affordably grow their own fruits and vegetables that will be available to them long into the future.
Will you continue to be involved with the project after your bat mitzvah? Yes. I plan to continue to volunteer in the community, and I plan to start my own community garden someday. Also, I want to make a web of communication between everyone involved with solving the problem of food insecurity. I also plan to engage my members of Congress by writing to them asking for their help to address the growing problem of food insecurity in our country.
What have you learned from the project? I believe that meeting immediate needs is very important, but I feel strongly that we should be looking to more sustainable solutions, e.g., lobbying the FDA to place tighter controls on food labeling, joining the efforts to ensure that schools provide nutritious lunches and planting community gardens in low-income communities so that everyone has access to fresh produce today and every day.
To learn more, visit kurmitzvah.wix.com/1010.