A feature of food pantries in December is the distribution of groceries tied not only to day to day survival, but also to the provision of a festive holiday meal. Client counts rise, lines grow longer, as do the volunteer lists. An added feature this year at the Maple Park/Morgan Park community Food Pantry on Chicago's Southwest side is environmentally friendly dish washing soap. Fully recyclable dispensers of non-toxic, biodegradable Method soap, manufactured in a LEED platinum certified factory just a few miles away are handed out (separately bagged as per health regulations) along with the turkey's, yams, cranberries and other seasonal staples. The first delivery of 100 18 oz bottles was made on December 8, by Roger Brewin (who helped set up the pantry more than 30 years ago) on behalf of UU Humanists.
The SOAP (Save Our Ailing Planet) project was designed as part of UU Humanists' participation in Commit2Respond, (www.Commit2Respond.org) a UU initiative designed to grow the Climate Change Movement, increase reliance on renewable power, and reach out in the process to marginalized communities, often disproportionately effected by a warming planet. The Method factory is completely wind and solar powered, and the clients and many of the volunteers for the pantry are from economically disadvantaged areas of Chicago (as is much of the factory workforce).
Brewin sees the project as an entry-level-to-climate activism opportunity, with individuals able to participate through donating the cost of one or more bottles of soap, helping to promote the project in their own congregations or humanist groups, and assisting with the collection of donations and delivery of the soap to local pantries and shelters. Congregations and groups willing to replicate the collection and distribution process in their own communities can contact Brewin at 773 551 8540 or Rabrewin@aol.com to receive starter kit. The program starts small, and can fit in with existing work in a Green Sanctuary program, a small group ministry or a religious education social justice curriculum.
Sufficient donations have been received since the project started just before the 2015 GA, that UU Humanists can now offer a matching grant of 25 bottles to each of the first four groups/congregations that raise enough money for 25 bottles for a pantry or shelter in their own community.