Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletJune 18, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Heifer International Helps Reclaim Local Food Systems by Sister Clare Pelkey, CSJ

In this column we often learn of the many challenges facing our world. As we address the issue of food sustainability over the next several months, it might be encouraging to realize that much is being done to meet the needs of hungry persons across the world and to learn how we might offer our support and assistance.

Millions of individuals across the globe who were once hungry are now nourished by milk, eggs and fresh vegetables through Heifer International, an organization that has been 60 years in the making (  The organization=s outreach extends from Asia and the South Pacific to Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean and the United States. Heifer is supported by donations or the purchase of animals (or shares of animals) as gifts for special occasions (Christmas, birthdays, etc.).  The group=s efforts were rewarded in October of 2004 when it received the prestigious Hilton Humanitarian Prize.

Heifer emphasizes community involvement, thus distinguishing its work from that of global relief organizations. Recipients are trained in animal management using animal-welfare guidelines before receiving their gift.  Animals include those that provide protein in the form of poultry and eggs (chickens, ducks, geese), milk (cows and goats), and meat/clothing (sheep and rabbits). One of Heifer=s practices is that of Apassing on the gift@ whereby recipients of an animal agree to share any offspring with others in need in their community.

Environmental and sustainable development is taught to help recipients achieve sustainable agricultural development. From roof tops to vacant lots, Heifer International=s Urban Agriculture Program is growing goodness, changing lives and building communities in the heart of North America=s big cities. Heifer supports grass-roots organizations that help communities reclaim and support local food systems. Inner-city youth learn entrepreneurial skills and the value of healthy eating by planting vegetables, growing flowers and selling produce to local markets. Immigrants share community gardens and their indigenous, agricultural practices which builds bridges among cultures. Disabled citizens use therapeutic gardening to reconnect with the earth and their communities.

Consider some of the following of Heifer=s success stories in North America: At-risk students in Gainesville, FL, are tending their own gardens and learning how to grow lettuce, strawberries and fresh vegetables organically. They share their harvest with family and friends and sell produce, jams, jellies and preserves at local farmers= markets. AI know about all the hard work, sweat and hours and hours of labor it takes to put food on our plates,@ said fourteen-year-old Elizabeth while fifteen-year-old Cedric added, AIt makes me proud that people are taking home my food to save their children.@

Thanks to Heifer=s partnership with Navajo communities, ranchers and weavers are receiving the technical training they need to combine with their ancient traditions and keep the sheep industry and their culture alive. Young Henri Carroll of Tallulah, LA, suffered from a speech impediment for years. However, when he began caring for his Heifer calf and talking to it, things began to change!  AToday I can understand everything he says,@ Henri=s father said. AThis training project and his Heifer animal have helped Henri=s speech and brought out the best he can be.@


(December 2006)