IFSC Guest Blog Series by Michelle Gibson, Solid Waste Specialist for DeKalb County Health Department
Caring for the environment is not just for elite, well-educated people. Caring for the environment is everyone’s duty. Environmental stewardship should unite people regardless of class, race, social economic status or education level. The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition seeks to elevate all efforts to promote environmental stewardship as it relates to composting food scraps. IFSC would like to highlight the DeKalb Green County Living Festival. This event is significant because it took place at the DeKalb County Health Department. The location is important because the Health Department’s population encompasses the whole County. Everyone, at some point in their life, will need to visit the Health Department because of the wide range of services offered.
The Green Living Festival’s aim was to bring environmental stewardship to populations who otherwise, would not be exposed to it. Over half of the clientele at the Health Department receive government subsidized food assistance know as WIC (Women Infant and Children Supplemental Food Program). Low-income families don’t always have environmental stewardship at the forefront of their mind. The intent of the festival was to introduce them to composting as well as other aspects of environmental stewardship. Families attended seminars and visited booths teaching them about environmental stewardship. Families were shown how they can be more involved in the food cycle, beyond shopping at the grocery store and discarding food waste. They started by touring the community gardens located on the Health Department’s campus.
Community gardens are open to anyone and produce is offered for free to WIC clients. After picking out fresh produce, they were shown healthy recipe demonstrations from the food they picked up. In line with the major mission of IFSC, they were given a seminar on composting food scraps and using them to help in their own gardens. The families who did not wish to participate in the community garden program were offered buckets to collect food scraps. They can drop the buckets off at the community gardens and exchange them weekly. These food scraps will provide vital nutrients for the gardens. Families also received tips on energy efficiency from Com Ed, Nicor and the Citizen’s Utility Board. The DeKalb Public Library bought out children’s books on environmental stewardship and healthy living. Other groups such as the YMCA, Adventure Works and Live Healthy DeKalb provided hands on kid’s activities to promote physical activity and healthy eating. Families who attended this event left with lots of great information about composting food scraps, gardening and environmental stewardship.