2013 Grants Challenge

Project 10: Tithing Urban Harvests Growing Community Food Security

Idea by Netiya

Project 10 is a cooperative effort among two faith-based networks in Los Angeles designed to leverage our shared values of justice, charity, and community and tap the potential of faith-based institutions in the urban sustainability movement. Through Project 10, we envision that faith-based institutions convert 10% of their unused land into urban orchards, producing large amounts of healthy, sustainably grown food and and creating community hubs for engagement and education around local food issues. Project 10 will work with these institutions to develop urban orchards on their properties and cultivate an interfaith network that capitalizes on the values, resources, and infrastructure of the faith community.

In L.A.’s growing urban sustainability movement that includes nonprofit, governmental, and private partners and focuses on a diverse set of issues, we believe that faith-based institutions are a vital but untapped ally. Among the large geographic, economic, social, and racial differences in this region, faith-based institutions serve as anchors in every community. According to the American Community Survey in 2007, there were more than 6,000 faith-based congregations in Los Angeles County, representing a membership of 2.3 million people (about a quarter of the population).(1)

The collaboration of Netiya and Seeds of Hope through Project 10 draws on this untapped power of faith-based institutions to focus on urban greening and local food systems through developing urban orchards on our landholdings. As faith-based networks, Netiya and Seeds of Hope currently engage and mobilize our constituencies around food justice. As a combined network of close to 250 institutions, we are able to access land, money, and volunteers from institutions that have established organizational structures in place. Project 10 will offer institutions with deeply rooted and, in many cases, shared ethics, an opportunity to become powerfully aligned with one another and with partners across other sectors to move elements of entrenched food systems into new configurations.

Project 10 is based on a very simple idea rooted in most major religions: tithing harvests. Tithing is the act of donating 10% of one’s resources to address the needs of the underserved within and around our communities. Currently, 10% of Angelenos are food insecure. Consider what it will look like when 10% of LA’s religious institutions convert 10% of their unused institutional land into productive orchards and donate at least 90% of the crop to help feed insecure Angelenos. By 2050, Project 10 will have provided over 23 million servings of fresh fruits and nuts to our neighbors in need, as part of a larger movement to address food insecurity in the region. By 2050, this project will have contributed approximately 50 acres of new open space to our communities that will have removed more than 4,500 tons of CO2 from our atmosphere, conserved 2.3 billion gallons of water through reduced irrigation, and prevented 185 million gallons of storm water from running off into our oceans.

To demonstrate the viability of our 2050 vision, in 2013 Netiya and Seeds of Hope will collaborate in using Goldhirsh grant funds to:

1) Develop three pilot orchard projects at three faith-based institutions representing geographic, religious, socio-economic, and land-use diversity.

2) Initiate large-scale interfaith awareness-building efforts through institutional engagement, including:

2a) Convene a one-day, interfaith food awareness conference targeted toward religious and lay leaders across institutions, building upon the Seeds of Hope conference planned for May 2013. This will target the more than 200 institutions of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and Netiya’s 32-member network.

2b) Build out an “Interfaith Council” that will meet regularly to collaborate and support ongoing food production efforts, building upon Netiya’s successful model Council.

3) Develop and distribute an “Interfaith Resource Guide” to help institutions plant and maintain orchards on their properties and contribute the produce to community food pantries.

4) Engage congregants in building awareness around local food and hunger issues through education and outreach programs.


(1) Not all congregations have access to land, as many share facilities. For the purposes of this project we estimate that 5,000 institutions exist in Los Angeles County.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Netiya is an interfaith network that advances urban agriculture through 32 faith-based institutions in Los Angeles. Netiya cultivates gardens to tithe nutritious food and build community food security, and organizes community to seed a more just and resilient local food system. Netiya's objectives are to address food insecurity proactively, and to organize around the ethics of our institutional-scale food choices.

Netiya's Just Gardens program converts unused land at our institutions, and teaches how to grow and tithe nutritious food sustainably. Netiya then trains these communities to sustain Just Gardens from seeding through tithing. Since March 2011, Netiya has installed eight sustainable Just Gardens & runs over 40 community events a year in LA. Netiya will complete two new Just Garden installs in 2013.

Netiya's Just Foods program teaches our institutions to make informed and ethical food choices about procuring food, and distributing leftover or community-grown food. We strive to forge alliances to source food from LA's local farms with intent to place purchasing power from our 32-institution network behind our local farms. Just Foods has launched the Netiya Council to enhance collaboration between our network institutions. It functions to collaboratively produce campaigns, events and educational materials.

Seeds of Hope is a network of more than 200 institutions within the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles committed to the physical and spiritual wellness of individuals and communities. The Diocese currently has more than 30 community gardens, school gardens, and small farms producing fresh produce for distribution to food insecure individuals and families through its more than 40 food pantries and 50 feeding programs.

Seeds of Hope combines and coordinates these efforts in a way that leverages their collective strengths. Individuals and institutions can access books and a website of resources to guide participants on these topics as well, each prepared by network participants on topics of community gardens, edible landscaping, and urban farming and can take advantage of more that 30 training opportunities in the Diocese each year around specific topics from soil preparation to pruning and harvesting.

Seeds of Hope Executive Director Tim Alderson was the founding chairman of the California School Garden Network, which provides the structural model for Project 10. CSGN was created as a network of more than 40 organizations from the public and private sectors, who, despite their disparate and sometimes conflicting agendas, all shared a common interest in instructional school gardens. CSGN works to coordinate the efforts of these various organization in support of school gardens throughout California. The network has funded over 4,000 school gardens, developed extensive training for educators, and created lesson plans aligned to the state standards for teaching all core subjects, K through 12, in a garden setting.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Identified partners include the Prince of Peace Episcopal Church and the West Valley Food Pantry, which will pilot a new orchard and the direct orchard-to-pantry model. Potential partners may come from the public or private sector; corporations, academia, water agencies, food and environmental nonprofits, and workforce development agencies. We would specifically expect to engage UC Master Gardeners, Food Forward, Tree People, the Million Trees Initiative, the Yale Urban Resources Initiative, and food pantries. We will bring in community organizations and youth groups to help start up and manage the orchards in their local neighborhoods, potentially establishing a new community hub in areas with limited access to fresh food and open space.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Number of institutions.

Our goal is to have 500 faith-based institutions participating by 2050 with an average of ten trees planted at each property.

Number of faith traditions.

Our goal is to have all major faith traditions in the county represented by 2050. Our first three pilot projects in 2013 will involve Jewish, Muslim, & Christian congregations.

Geographic distribution.

Our goal is to have a positive impact on the health of individuals & the environment throughout every region in the county. We will quantify the geographic distribution of our orchards with particular interest in areas of greater food insecurity & environmental stresses.

Demographic diversity.

We aim to involve Angelenos of every cultural, ethnic, & socio-economic background. We will quantify success by comparing our participants with the overall diversity of LA.

Acreage converted.

Each orchard will be measured & added to the total to identify whether we will meet or exceed our goal of converting 50 acres to open space.

Trees planted.

Our goal is to plant 5,000 fruit & nut trees by 2050. Trees planted will be inventoried using GPS coordinates & tracked carefully for their positive impacts on the environment & food production.

Servings of fruit grown & distributed.

We project that each tree planted will produce approximately 125 servings of fruit or nuts each year for a potential total of more than 23 million servings. We will carefully quantify each harvest to measure our success.

People served.

Produce from our orchards will be distributed to neighbors in need through our volunteer network, & local food pantries. The amount of fruit or nuts distributed to each recipient will be recorded to track how many people are served.

Pollutants removed from the air.

Each tree has the potential to remove approximately 50 pounds per year of CO2 from the atmosphere. This could amount to over 4,500 tons of CO2 removed from our air by 2050. In partnership with the Urban Resources Initiative at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, using their technology we will precisely measure the amount of pollutants each tree removes from the surrounding air.

Water saved.

Before converting a property to orchard production, we will record the water consumption for its prior use. After conversion, water usage will be documented to determine water savings.

Volunteers participating.

Community involvement is a key determiner of the sustainability. We will quantify the number of congregations & participants over time & the average length of personal engagement. We will also look for indicators to predict a person’s willingness or resistance to participation & motivators for long-term involvement.

Additional, somewhat less quantifiable impacts such as stormwater runoff & decreases in temperature will also be observed.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

Project 10 recognizes its place in a much larger urban sustainability movement in Los Angeles that is providing environmental, economic, and social benefits to Angelenos. Project 10 is part of the much larger urban greening, local food production, and food justice movements. By engaging powerful faith-based allies across the city in planting urban orchards, Project 10 will amplify the benefits of tree planting for food, creating positive effects that will last for decades.

Converting the unused land from faith-based institutions into productive green space will increase urban green areas and bring about related environmental benefits. These include temperature reduction, energy conservation, a reduction in the number of smog and red alert days, improved water quality, and sequestering of greenhouse gases. In particular, there is an acute awareness of the need for more green space in low-income urban environments. In this way, Project 10’s approach can have a particularly strong effect on the health of these communities, as religious institutions are very strong players and can become a starting point for cultivating new and improving access to green spaces.

Project 10’s other benefits result from shifting towards local sustainable food systems, as a response to food safety and food access issues, as well as national epidemics of hunger and obesity. The focus on planting urban orchards is intentional, as we assert that urban orchards can have a much more significant effect on the long-term food system than annual vegetable gardens. Once established and producing, orchards can produce food for decades, and, in the case of nut trees, can produce healthy food with high caloric value. Orchards are also significantly easier to maintain once established, need far less material (compost, mulch, plastic irrigation supplies), water, and labor than annual gardens, and many orchards will just produce food even if they are left alone for years. And Project 10 is designed to take advantage of existing gleaning networks in Los Angeles that already work on private and public orchards to provide food to local pantries.

By 2050 we will:

-Create 50 acres of new urban green space

-Improve community health, particularly among the “food insecure” by adding over 23 million servings of fresh fruits and nuts to local food pantries.

-Remove 4,500 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere

-Reduce storm water run-off by 185 million gallons

-Conserve 2.3 billion gallons of water (by converting turf and ornamentals to trees)

-Improve LA’s water quality by capturing and slowing water at our institutions so it percolates into underground aquifers.

-Improve the quality of life in our communities by improving food access in and around our geographically-diverse congregations, decreasing air pollution, noise, temperatures, and increasing property values.

-Help reduce medical costs associated with obesity, diabetes, and smog-related diseases.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

LA in 2050, after running Project 10 for several decades, will boast perhaps one of the country’s first integrated local food systems that tangibly reduces hunger in the city. Urban orchards flourish in institutions and the backyards of individuals and 90% of their harvest is donated back to the community through local food pantries. Interfaith Youth Corps serve as orchardists and take on other roles in support of institutions establishing Project 10 throughout LA county.

Success in the year 2050 is when 10% of the faith-based institutions in Los Angeles have dedicated 10% of their unused land towards cultivating urban orchards that help filter and clean the air, improve the soil’s water retention, decrease polluted runoff from entering the ocean, and provide verdant patches of paradise throughout the city for all people to enjoy. If successful, faith-based institutions will play their part by producing food, providing green space and galvanizing communities to actively take a role in transforming the current food system. There is active, engaged volunteership within faith-based institutions around transforming the food system. This will involve establishing and building up strong links between faith-based institutions to produce food, mobilize communities, and constitute/sustain/organize our networks. The faith-based institutions have solidified partnerships across the corporate and nonprofit sectors, (including Master Gardeners, MG Orchard Team, other gleaning institutions, tree planting organizations, pantries, food justice organizations, workforce development, and local government collaborators) to advance this vision.