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New Hope

November 3, 2014


Elizabeth Dworzecki shares her experience at the “Just Food” Alternative Break Immersion trip.

For our long weekend at Dominican, many students stay at home, study, do homework, or relax. My long weekend was exactly the opposite. Last weekend, with 8 other Dominican students and 2 staff members, I went on an Alternative Break Immersion through University Ministry called “Just Food”. One of the main purposes of this service trip was to use our voice to address issues of social justice surrounding food. This includes concerns about access to food and corruption in the food industry.

On Friday we all met at school at 8am, had a breakfast and started our trip right here in the city of Chicago. Our first stop was at a very green, efficient restaurant called West Town Bakery and Diner. From their website I went back to find out the exact details of how “green” they really were. West Town always uses local, organic, and sustainable ingredients. They  strive to use as many local and all-natural ingredients as possible, down to the flour, butter, eggs, nuts, chocolate, milk, fruits, vegetables, oils—everything. Their products come in environmentally friendly packaging. They even make deliveries in hybrid vehicles and use green-approved lighting in the bakeries. And when they are done for the day, they compost, recycle, and use eco-friendly products to clean up. It was truly inspiring to know that there is a restaurant that cares this much and shows that it is possible. I learned how much every other restaurant truly wastes and harms the environment.

Later on we went to Logan Square and had a lunch challenge among the group. We went to a food desert, where there are no grocery stores for a couple miles, and many people depend on public transportation to get around. Some went to a “liquor store/gas station” and some to a food co-op called the Dill Pickle with only $25 to purchase a lunch meal for each other. This activity was a lot harder than it looked. It truly was an experience to see how difficult it would be to live in a food desert area and support a family as well.

We then arrived in Iowa at the New Hope Catholic Worker Farm. It was a lot different than I had expected, but, then, I really didn’t know what to expect at the time! I imagined a big red barn and horses, but it was nothing like that. It was more of a little community of 4 houses clustered together. There were about 15 individuals including children that live on this farm. They focus on joy, team work, forgiveness, and most importantly simple living. Many of us could not even imagine how simple and possible it is for people to live and survive this way in today’s world.

There were many differences between the New Hope Farm in Iowa and just River Forest itself. They found ways to live without running water, barely any meat in their diet, minimal energy by using solar panels, and using animals on the farm for the direct food that they will be eating that day. They had a cow, many chickens, sheep, and a dog on this farm, and from those animals (besides the dog!) they had received what they were going to use for food or fabric. It was quite the culture shock for me, but I have learned more than I could have ever imagined.

This Alternative Break Immersion, “Just Food” has taught me how it is truly possible to live without all the fancy, expensive, planet-harming things that we live with. It has taught me to be more earth-connected and to use what the earth has to give us in the most beneficial way. We are taught to always “think big” in school, but this weekend I have learned the exact opposite, to “think little.” Many of us want to make more money, or own more, but how about thinking of simply spending less money – to minimize waste, water, and energy usage and to help the environment since we know it may not last forever? We need to disconnect with this busy, fast-paced world, and connect more with the earth and Mother Nature herself. It’s not easy for all of us to jump into this simple-living life; we need to make baby steps, baby steps to a more simple and earth-efficient life.


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