Meet the SustainPHL Nominees: #FuturePHL
The following nominees were chosen for their efforts to propel Philadelphia’s future in sustainability. Their work sets this city on a greener path for the benefit of everyone.
SustainPHL 2019 #FuturePHL Nominees
- Ash Richards
- Megha Kulshreshtha
- The Rodale Institute
“The creation of the new Urban Agriculture Director position is important because it represents the momentum and outcome of all the incredible work and advocacy of so many of Philadelphia’s residents, gardeners, and educators over the years.”
Ash is a city planner, food justice advocate, and organizer who has worked for the City of Philadelphia since 2011. They recently began their role as Urban Agriculture Director at Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, where they are leading the first Urban Agriculture Plan for the city, and they represent the department as the co-chair of the Food Policy Advisory Council’s (FPAC) Urban Agriculture Sub-Committee.
In 2008, Ash began their career as a Sustainable Communities Coordinator in the South Bronx and facilitated the creation of an urban farm cooperative led by Black women and Latina residents. This experience inspired their passion for community-controlled public resources and drove them to adopt integrity and equity-driven principles to ensure that communities’ public spaces are designed to cultivate healthy, accessible, and enduring neighborhoods.
Ash works to support farms and gardens as important community and cultural hubs within Philadelphia and redefine urban agriculture as an essential long-term resource. One of the primary purposes of the city’s Urban Agriculture Plan is expanding Philly’s ability to support gardens and agriculture on and off of parkland with.educational resources. Additionally, Ash manages the newly created Community Compost Network Program, which is focused on providing composting facilities to the city’s neighborhoods, as well as training residents and community groups on how to maintain and build local capacity for a community compost facility.
“I don’t want to be on the sidelines hoping for a better world; I want to do my part. Communities don’t change without active involvement and Food Connect is my way of doing my part.”
Megha founded Food Connect, a nonprofit organization building solutions to bridge the gap between scarcity and abundance in food distribution, in 2014. What started as a volunteer effort in her evenings and weekends turned into a city-wide collaborative initiative to work together and help support local community organizations such as local shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries, all while reducing food waste.
Megha credits her upbringing for her passion and dedication to bridging the painful gaps we see and experience in our society. Her parents emigrated from India in 1991 when she was four, and they struggled to make ends meet despite her father working three jobs and her mother taking babysitting or house help jobs. But no matter how much or how little resources there were, her parents always gave wholeheartedly to their guests, family, and community.
Food Connect boasts impressive statistics: It works with over 200 donors and 300 recipient organizations, rescues an average of 12,000 meals each month, and serves approximately 550 people experiencing food insecurity a day. The non-profit is committed to bringing private sector advancements in technology and collaboration into the food rescue space so that food donation and access barriers can be decreased. Collaboration and distribution technology will transform the way society does business, as well as the way we interact with one another, communicate, and exchange goods. Food Connect’s mission is to ensure that these advancements benefit the many rather than the few.
The Rodale Institute
“If we fix the way we farm, we heal so many dimensions of our planet and humanity. We need to be able to provide healthy food and clean water to our families for generations to come. “
The Rodale Institute, founded in 1947, is a nonprofit dedicated to pioneering regenerative organic farming through research and outreach. They aim to expand organic agriculture by assisting farmers in successfully transitioning to organic, conducting research on organic farming methods and their impact, and educating consumers on the benefits of organic for people and planet. Due to the Rodale Institute’s over seventy years of leadership, over 4.1 million acres of US farmland is certified organic.
One of Rodale Institute’s research projects focused in the Philadelphia area is the Watershed Impact Trial, which is designed to explore and educate the public on connections between farming practices and clean water. The Delaware River Watershed provides drinking water to 15 million people, including those in Philadelphia, but its number one polluter is agriculture. To protect the Delaware River Watershed and the millions of people who depend on it, Rodale Institute wants to change the management practices of 50,000 acres in the watershed.
The Rodale Institute has been leading the organic movement to heal both people and our planet. One branch of this effort is the nonprofit’s focus on training veterans to become farmers as a means of transitioning back into the civilian workforce. Additionally, the Rodale Institute has a farm share program called Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC) that offers a weekly selection of organic produce and pasture-raised proteins to families in the Lehigh Valley and Berks County areas. ASC allows share-holders to pay week-to-week, rather than upfront as in a traditional Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. Members that participate in SNAP can use federal SNAP dollars to pay for discounted shares. This allows healthy, affordable food to be available for all.