Friday, November 18, 2016

ISKASHITAA REFUGEE NETWORK Joins the Global #GivingTuesday Movement!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Information assembled by Isabel Rodriguez, Iskashitaa Nutrition Intern

Common name: Pomegranate
Scientific name: Punica granatum L.

Origins: The pomegranate first grew in Iran (previously known as Persia) and the Himalayas, then traveled to India and Southeast Asia where it was cultivated and harvested. The pomegranate was then imported by Spanish settlers to California in the late 1700's.

Cultural Importance: Some cultures, including Buddhist and Jewish, refer to the pomegranate as a sort of apple. The significance of the fruit was beyond that of a food - it was a symbol. A pomegranate would symbolize strength, marriage, or eternal life in some cultures. Pomegranates were considered a blessed fruit by the Buddha, and in India they consider the fruit as a symbol of good wealth.

Food Uses: People began using the pomegranate as a source of food, but there are other uses as well. In Ancient Egypt, they used the juice from the fruit to make medicine that would kill bacteria, and used the crushed blossom as red dye. Now, the pomegranate is easily accessible to anyone and many people are consuming the seeds raw or in juice or syrup form. Other uses include using the fruit in natural remedies to cure ailments such as diarrhea or mouth ulcers.  

Health Benefits/Warnings

Pomegranates are a good source of fiber, Vitamin C and antioxidants, which can help support the immune system. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and help to prevent heart disease. Some warnings could include not to consume pomegranates if you are allergic or to limit consumption as too much of the fruit could cause extremely low blood pressure (if already taking high blood pressure medication).
Spread the Word, Share the Surplus
By Michaele Pepe

David recently had a surplus problem. He was troubled about all the limes that would go to waste if he didn’t find help to harvest them. “We’ve had this lime tree for 20 years and this was the first time it has produced fruit, and we didn’t know what to do with all of it.” He was relieved to learn from a friend of a friend about Iskashitaa, and how it helps homeowners like him who also have the fortunate problem of overabundance. David then simply called Iskashitaa and scheduled a harvest, transforming his surplus into a gift.

Word of mouth is a powerful tool for a non-profit like Iskashitaa. The organization has used other forms of getting the word out about reducing food waste and giving support to newly arrived refugees as well, like being featured on the local public broadcasting station, KUAZ earlier this year.
Because of word of mouth, twenty-six pounds of limes were saved and David and his wife were spared the trouble of picking them. “At our age, we can’t get around to pick all of our citrus fruit anymore.” He went on to say how he would welcome Iskashitaa volunteers back in the winter when his oranges were ripe. David won’t be the only one, though. Often during the winter months, Iskashitaa has such an abundance of citrus gleaning opportunities, that they don’t have enough volunteers to keep up.

Iskashitaa relies on having adequate volunteers, refugee and non-refugee alike, to redistribute the remarkable resource of local produce to refugees or other underserved populations. Two of these regular volunteers are Amelia and Emily, who are designated harvest leaders. Harvest leaders help organize and manage weekly harvest trips for volunteers to private residences or organizations such as the University of Arizona.

Jasoda, another frequent harvest volunteer, is a former refugee from Bhutan. She and other refugees further work with Iskashitaa staff in post-harvest activities to learn important job skills, while at the same time becoming more involved in the Tucson community. For instance, the gift of limes from David’s house could go on to be featured in workshops, where Jasoda learns, or even teaches, food preparation and preservation. The products of these workshops could then go on to be sold at a farmer’s market.

Do you know anyone who cultivates a surplus of fruits or vegetables? Or anyone who wonders how they can assist the global refugee situation at a local level?  Tell them about Iskashitaa. With your help to spread the word, Iskashitaa and the Tucson community can welcome refugees through something that unites us all: food.