Veteran’s Food Production Project

2012 Winner! 

Howard Hinterthuer, Veteran’s Food Production Project

Our organic therapy project, now in its fourth year, is transitioning into a food production program designed to supplement and eventually replace food that we currently purchase through vendors. During the first four months of 2011, 78% of our food purchase dollars were spent for meat and meat products, while 22% went for fruits, vegetables, grains and their derivatives. We wish to turn those percentages around. Our formerly homeless clients, now in transitional housing and numbering close to 300 on a daily basis, are largely African American with a statistically high occurrence of hypertension, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer of the colon. Additionally, these people need jobs. Our goal is to create jobs and job skills through this program. This phased program is designed to get us to self-sufficiency within three years.

I am mentoring our current crop of participants, hoping to help them develop into our supervisory staff when the program expands exponentially next year. They will then help to train additional leaders moving forward. As a member of the Board of Directors of a 100-share CSA in Newburg, WI, I have access to the annual budget and relevant data of that organization, information that will prove useful as we develop this urban program.

How is your project positively impacting your community?
Our community of veterans is no longer “foodless,” but the food they are currently consuming is likely to affect their health adversely over time. Historically, efforts to introduce more healthy foods have been rejected. “I’ve never had this,” they may say, but what they mean is “I won’t eat this.” However, we have learned from our Organic Therapy Program that those who experience growing the food are more likely to try it at harvest time and continue to enjoy it ever after. They also experience a sense of pride of accomplishment. Additionally, this program will provide jobs and job training to a largely unemployed population, plus a whole lot of exercise, sunshine and fresh air to people who are currently sitting in front of a TV or standing outside smoking a cigarette.

(November 2011 update)  End of 2011 season.  The tomato plants got huge this year.  By mid-season they were toppling the tomato cages.  We created hinged wooden (4”x4”) pyramids that we erected over the top of the 6’6” tall plants.  The plants were then tied-up to the pyramids.  Around Oct. 1st, there was a frost warning, so we fashioned the plastic tent over the pyramids, mainly to keep frost from settling on the plants, but also to provide a little solar gain.  At the end of October we suspended incandescent flood lights inside the tent, mainly for heat.  A hard frost was long overdue.  But during the second week in November, we were still harvesting tomatoes, a very rare occurrence in this part of the world (“frozen tundra”).  Of course, everyone was tickled.  It looks if we will have fresh tomatoes from our garden on Thanksgiving.  The tent is down and the garden has been put to bed for the winter.  But tomatoes are still ripening on the window sill.

You can view photos from the Organic Therapy Project on the TEDxManhattan Flickr page.

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