Giving Thanks for the Boulder Food Project

Hana Dansky has done a lot of digging to find out the general landscape when it comes to food production and consumption. She is not happy with what she’s found. She states it succinctly: we put “10 percent of our national energy budget, 50 percent of our land use, and 80 percent of our freshwater resources into food, truck it around the country, and then end up throwing away nearly 40 percent of everything we produce, much of which is still edible and healthy.” At the same time, there are hungry people everywhere.

Saying No to Waste

Hana is putting her body and soul into changing that. She and a small group of friends have started The Boulder Food Rescue. They go around to grocery stores around Boulder picking up food that is slated for the garbage heap and redistributing it to organizations that serve food to the poor. In the last four years, the Boulder Food Rescue has grown to include 150 volunteers who do food pickups ten times each day. They are able to save 1000 pounds of food each day and get it into the mouths of those who don’t have other access to healthy food – people in low-income housing, homes for the elderly, preschools and after school programs.

Sharing Food in Community

The Boulder Food Rescue also values community. It is not just about giving to those who have less but sharing in community with them. Once a month, volunteers host a meal – they share with their guests the cooking and the eating.

Their work has inspired others. Their model is being put to work in cities across the country that collaborate through the Food Rescue Alliance.

Want to Get Involved? Learn more at or

Painting for Peace in Ferguson

When the grand jury announced that it would not indict Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, anger spilled over into the streets in Ferguson and nearby St. Louis. Windows were smashed, fires started. The owner of a St. Louis café watched from her home across the street as the nine windows of her restaurant shattered to the ground.

Reaching Out

Later that night she began the process of boarding up the spaces where the glass had been. The ugliness was jarring. So she asked some friends to help her splash on a little colored paint to relieve the despair.

Word spread. By morning, artists began to assemble. Within a few days, hundreds of artists came together to revitalize the look of the storefronts. Suppliers from around the country got in on the act, donating paint and other materials. Hundreds of paintings now grace the area with colorful vitality and messages of hope.

Finding Common Ground

This coming together to change destruction into something positive has had a healing effect on both the artists and the business owners. One resident noted, “It was a great relief for them to feel that they were part of building us back up. I felt the opposite — that they were helping us heal.”

It doesn’t end there. This year, planning is underway for a Ferguson Mural Project. The website characterizes the project this way: it “will integrate personal stories to create empathy, make meaning and effect real change by giving the community an opportunity to heal and beautify Ferguson’s downtown.”

The project will be documented from beginning to end – a tool for spreading the movement across the country.

Interested in getting involved? Learn more at

Bilingualism for Peace

Language is the key to understanding one another, right? Put another way by the writer Margaret Atwood, “War is what happens when language fails.”

Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education

Called the “Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education,” the Israel-based organization is a network of five schools (a sixth school was burned to the ground by arsonists) where classes are taught in both Hebrew and Arabic. The Hand in Hand goal is to create 15 more schools over the next ten years.

Why are they so excited? Because they see education as a game-changer like no other solution yet advanced. One Palestinian parent living in Israel and serving on the Hand in Hand schools team explained, “The kids get to interact with each other on the human ground. They get to know each other first on a personal level. They get to know that they have so many common things.” (

A recent newspaper article about Hand in Hand’s reaction to the recent escalation in Arab-Jewish violence says that students are apprehensive about the dangers they face in simply traveling to and from school. But the article reports, these Jewish and Arab children are brave and determined “to not be satisfied by the daily act of arriving to school as a response to this period of violence, but to go out from its protective walls to initiate social and civic engagement in an attempt to end the violence.”

Read more about the bravery and commitment of the students; and follow Hand and Hand as they grow:

Do you know of other organizations using bilingualism to bring people together? Share here!

Selling Lemonade to Fight Type 1 Diabetes

Today is one of those rare Chicago November days with temps in the 70s. What a gift! Which has got me thinking about July. Specifically one lazy afternoon when I was sitting out in the strong Montana sun amidst vacationing golfers and tennis players and swimmers…oh! and beer drinkers (incidentally I noticed several orders for Goose Island — shout out to my hometown Chicago brewery!)

Eventually, I gave in to the heat and, drenched in sweat, began my walk back to my townhouse there.

The Pitch

A short ways down the path, I could see three little girls – the oldest looked no more than ten – with the typical lemonade stand set-up. Table, sign, money jar, big pitcher of lemonade, small paper cups…you get the picture. But as I got closer and could hear the girls hawking their wares, I was in for a surprise. Not the usual 25 cents for a cup of lemonade. Instead, their pitch was:

Now, first, I must say, I was impressed with the marketing strategy – tapping into our openness to giving for a good cause; and our obsession with getting a “free” gift – both at the same time. Brilliant!

The Impulse to Give

But I digress. I wondered what had led these girls to their decision to “give back.” So I asked. At first, they explained, they were just going to have a “regular” lemonade stand and collect money for themselves. But their cousin has Type 1 diabetes and they hit upon this as a way to help her.

Developing the Giving Habit

I began to think: What if every kid who sets up a lemonade stand – and there must be hundreds of thousands each summer – chose some cause near and dear to their hearts to receive the proceeds.

For the recipients of the donations, every little bit helps. But, maybe more important, our children would be having a positive experience with giving at a very young age. They would be involved in the choice of charity, which would require them to think about what means most to them. And they would experience the joy of making the world a better place while doing something fun. You know how children who are read to at a young age often get the warm fuzzies later on when they think about reading? Well, same concept here. Wouldn’t it be great for children to develop the warm fuzzies for giving, starting them on their way to becoming lifelong givers.

Pass it on!

Facing Fears: Fighting Back Against School Shootings

On a spring day in 1999, students filed into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado for their early morning classes. For most of them, it started off as just another ordinary Tuesday with the usual classes, tests, and kibitzing with friends. But as the first shift of teenagers prepared for lunch, two fellow students walked into the school and began shooting. For 49 minutes, students hid under their tables and desks watching and listening as the shooters walked up and down the rows, randomly picking off fellow students one by one. 12 students and one teacher died that day. 21 others were injured.

Fast forward to a raw day in January 2013. 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and a few friends had just finished their mid-year exams and were trading gossip in a Chicago park near their high school when gang members approached and began shooting. As the girls fled, Hadiya was shot in the back and killed.

School shootings have come to seem painfully commonplace. Some are one-time killing sprees launched by loners; others are part of a larger pattern of killing by gangs. Either way, when students across the country slide on their backpacks and walk out their front doors every weekday morning, they know that, though unlikely, their school’s number could be up next.

It’s enough to paralyze even the best of us. So I am heartened that students are facing their fear and taking action.

Rachel’s Challenge

Rachel’s Challenge, named after the first student killed in the Columbine massacre, has built a movement based on Rachel’s belief (that she had written about shortly before her death) in small acts of kindness that can inspire a chain reaction. Exactly. She had it just right.

Rachel’s Challenge sends staff into schools around the country to de-escalate a wide range of school violence – not just school shootings but also bullying, discrimination and teen suicide. They have reached over 21 million people around the world, and have prevented at least eight school shootings and over 500 suicides. Check out videos interviews on their website: It’s interesting to me that kids particularly respond to this program as coming from one of their peers. It reminds me that kid-to-kid community-building is powerful.

Project Orange Tree

I have the same takeaway from another group called Project Orange Tree started by Hadiya Pendleton’s classmates after her death. They, too, felt that they had to do something. So they started Project Orange Tree named after the orange vests that hunters wear to make them visible and keep them from getting shot. And they inspired adults. This past June, the “Wear Orange” campaign brought together 50 anti-gun violence groups with Congressmen, mayors and community members of all ages to raise awareness and discussion.

You can learn more about the 2015 national day inspired by the student movement at If you want to get involved, check out Hadiya’s Promise (

You can get involved in Rachel’s Challenge or pass this along to someone you know (check it out at

Share your own inspiring stories about student-led movements to combat violence.
And…Happy Halloween!