Many people in marginalized communities across the United States struggle to access healthy food. The Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota is classified as a “food desert,” and members of the Native American reservation have the lowest life expectancy rate in the United States. In an attempt to counter this inequity, our volunteers in Chicago decided to share their harvest with the South Dakota residents, as well as provide hats for children to keep them warm in the winter months.
At our mid-western center in Chicago, Illinois, fields of organic produce are lovingly grown each season. This year, green beans, carrots, sunflower seeds and many other vegetables were plentiful. With the desire to share this bounty, our volunteers packaged the produce and delivered it to South Dakota, many miles away. We partnered with a local nonprofit Lakota Circle to help foster the relationship with the residents.
After the crop was harvested, one of our volunteers enthusiastically packed his car full of vegetables, setting off on an 850-mile, and more than 12 hour drive to South Dakota. Included with the delivery was a letter from our volunteers, which said “We humbly offer this gift of fresh food from our Amrita Farms to you. May the blessing of Mother Earth sustain you. May we form a lasting bond of friendship across the miles.”
In another move to provide support for the community, we also sent over 150 small hats for the local children. The temperatures in the winter reach below freezing on the reservation. Due to the severe weather, many children struggle to attend school and are frequently ill. Survivors of the 2013 Uttarakhand flooding in northern India, who are now graduates of our vocational training program, knit the warm hats for the children. Similar to our Warming Hearts and Hands project, we were able to bring together two struggling communities to find sustainable solutions to some of their most pressing problems, in ways that mutually benefitted both.