For my SEVA project, I chose to give my time to Joy’s Kitchen, assisting the food rescue mission. I am friends with Kathy, the founder, and thought it might be an enlightening or enriching avenue for me to help those who worry where their next meal is coming from.
I moved back to Fort Collins from Hawaii in April to start my yoga teacher training program at Holistic. Living in Hawaii, I had a beautiful vegetarian diet, including much raw and organic produce. My job there helped provide the structure and consistency of this. Since transitioning back to the mainland and diving deeper into my study of yoga, I’ve experienced more difficulty and trouble in my relationship with food. I’ve accumulated less routine and more cravings and habits I’m not proud of. Yogic philosophy can speak to my experience and journey with food, inner peace, and practicing gratitude, and I share this story to elaborate some points of reflection and connection.
I also met Kathy in April at The Circus Collective in Denver. Every Sunday she is there with rescued food from stores like Sprouts and King Soopers. Some 49% of food, or more, goes to waste. Kathy’s organization has arranged to rescue this food and redistribute it to people in need through churches, shelters and other locations. I truly appreciate what Kathy and Joy’s Kitchen does, as she was also feeding me and my friends when we traveled down to Denver for Ecstatic dance at The Circus Collective most Sundays.
I had the intention of using the module style approach of yoga teacher training to help me integrate, over time, yoga into my lifestyle more holistically. I found this to be more challenging than I could’ve ever anticipated with new relationships, job transitions, and various emotional/life stressors surfacing as I faced what arose for me in my meditation and yoga practices.
Giving my time, to help others have food, spoke to me as an opportunity to get away from my ego and emotional escape tactics, and funnel energy into serving others.
I traveled to Lakewood, CO on each a Thursday night and a Saturday morning to volunteer at Westwoods Community Church. I spent about 3 hours there each time. The Church is a major support and sponsor of the food rescue Kathy began 7 years ago.
Kathy pulled up with a trailer full of food Thursday evening. There was a core group of volunteers and then me, along with others present for a first or second or tenth-random time. It was our job to unload the food, and then sort and organize it.
It is incredible how much food is rescued! And good quality food at that. Often food is on the verge of going sour or has recently expired (technically; for some packaged products), so by law it’s no longer good/safe to sell. Often it can still be used within a few days to a week’s or more time depending on what type of food it is. These stores – Sprouts, Target, King Soopers, and so on – they’re pushing more fresh food and products onto the shelves for market-appealing display. Spending time, and mostly money on gas and paying herself (Kathy) minimum wage, Joy’s Kitchen can collect hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of food (sometimes vitamins and household products too) every week and redistribute it to the community in need. Anyone struggling to get by and stressing or worrying about their food budget – their next meal – is welcome to visit a distribution center, receive their number, wait their turn to shop, and pick out food freely without judgment. And WITH generous, loving support and a sense of community from the volunteers.
There’s no shame and even more food leftover after everybody has shopped, including the volunteers themselves. It really is a phenomenal program. Kathy invites all the volunteers to circle up before shopping begins, and to share names and your favorite thing about this holiday season. We do a little reflective prayer and express gratitude as well. Another volunteer – lead facilitator – Dave likes to reiterate how special and powerful it is we each show up and simply be present to give our time. “We each come here with an ability level,” Dave emphasizes. From there it’s hoped we contribute our best. Some of us are hard workers, with younger, capable bodies to lift and carry boxes and bags of food for our shoppers. Others love to organize and keep the process flowing in a timely, engaged manner. Others still give by sharing themselves, their story, their smiles and laughs: they are the community-builders and the socializers… helping others feel welcome and bringing light to everyone’s day. Whatever strength(s) we bring, most importantly, we choose to be there, and Kathy and Dave and everyone else are so incredibly grateful for our time donated.
This experience brought to light for me a renewed desire to emphasize my time and energy focusing on family and community. That we are connected, and we all belong, and we make and stay close to our families in different ways. We each are special and have a unique gift to bring to the world, to offer others, as the sun and the moon pass, day after day.
The eight limbs of yoga include one limb being asana, which is posture, and the aspect a large populous of people most acquaint themselves to or understand yoga as: a fitness and stretching routine. However, yoga goes beyond simply these physical movements to embrace other limbs such as the yamas (or restraints) and niyamas (or observances). To mention a few yamas, there is truthfulness, non-stealing, and moderation.
I think of truthfulness and honesty as the yoga in food rescue and distribution. We are being honest and generous, which bring more invitation for others to open, to trust, and to share: the true riches in life present themselves. The shoppers are not stealing when in need, as we rescue and deliver. And, by moderation, especially for those of us having an abundance, we take and give only what we need, generating an air of spiritual vitality and contentment by leaving open time and energy for other things to come to life, to present themselves, to fill us, and ultimately, to experience connection.
To mention some niyamas, there is purity, contentment and self-discipline. By purity, we experience a process of moving away from bodily desires, comfort and pleasures, or attaining goals. Being fed properly with balanced nutrition is a basic need for all, separate from any lavish comfort or desire or even an escape through emotional eating. Purity sheds the noise and distractions in our life down to simplicity of fulfillment. Stripping away from the outer world, such as even cravings or obsessions with food, we can come to more contentment, inner stillness of the mind, and supreme happiness. And finally, the self-discipline to hold true to such a path invites more peace altogether.
By sharing some of the yamas and niyamas, just two of the eight limbs of yoga, I see there are many potential parallels and derivations by which the giving of time to a food rescue mission not only helps those in need, but also provides opportunity to channel more yogic experience in one’s life.
I am very grateful I gave my time, helped others attain free food, and brought smiles and ease to their days, hearts and minds. I also found new inspiration to refocus my priorities to family meals, community, and simply practicing connection and gratitude altogether. I am abundant and grateful.
If you too would like to get involved one day, please check out: https://joyskitchen.org/. And if you’d like to experience the safe, non-judgmental, sober movement of Ecstatic dance along with it, please lookup “Denver, CO ED” on ecstaticdance.org. I hope to see you out dancing and feeding those in need! Namaste!