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Interfaith Hunger and Greening Initiative

The Interfaith Hunger and Greening Initiative will mobilize diverse religions to act against hunger and environmental degradation.

Photo of Hank Millstein
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Why does the target community define this problem as urgent and/or a priority? How is the idea leveraging and empowering community assets to help create an environment for success? (1000 characters)

Target communities include faith congregations and hunger and environmental organizations. Congregations see hunger, environmental care, and interfaith/intercultural relationships as urgent because their ethical traditions command concern with them and because they see the effects of these problems in their communities. Hunger and environmental organizations want deeper reach in their communities by working with faith groups. Many faith communities are already active in one or more of these issues, often through committees or other volunteer groups working on them. This project will enable both faith and social activist communities to link these issues and draw on one another’s resources, while building interfaith and intercommunity relationships. In particular, it will enable diverse communities to draw on ING’s resources and experience in countering bigotry and building intercultural understanding.

How does the idea fit within the larger ecosystem that surrounds it? Urgent needs are usually a symptom of a larger issue that rests within multiple interrelated symptoms - share what you know about the context surrounding the problem you are aiming to solve. (500 characters)

The current political atmosphere has made concerns addressed here more acute through cuts in government funding for welfare of the poor and environmental care and through growth of overt bigotry, hate groups, and polarization. Congregations find it all the more urgent to address this situation but have personnel and resource limitations that restrict their response to them.
Unfortunately, existing intercommunity relationships are usually not sufficient to solve this problem.

How does the idea affect or change the fundamental nature of the larger ecosystem that surrounds it (as described above) in a new and/or far-reaching way? (500 characters)

By promoting interfaith cooperation, this project will directly counter nativism and intolerance; enable congregations to pool resources to address hunger, environmental care, and other issues more effectively; provide avenues for individuals and communities to act on their concerns; and build relationships that will strengthen the witness and activism of faith communities in society at large, while countering the negative political atmosphere around diversity, poverty, and environment.

What will be different within the target community as a result of implementing the idea? What is the scope and scale of that difference? How long will it take to see that difference and how will it be sustained beyond BridgeBuilder support? (500 characters)

Environmental and hunger organizations will have deeper reach in the community, more donations, and greater impact through new volunteers and their input. Congregations will share resources and experiences to more effectively promote social justice. The result will be less bigotry, less bullying, and greater understanding. This effort will involve tens of thousands of congregants and within two years build a base of support that will enable its continuation beyond BridgeBuilder funding.

How has the idea evolved or responded to your user research during the Beneficiary Feedback Phase and any further insights provided if you participated in the Expert Feedback Phase? (1000 characters)

Beneficiary feedback has confirmed the value and viability of this project. In particular, it has confirmed diverse faith communities’ interest in addressing social justice issues together and has made it clearer how this project will impact change in local and regional communities by building partnerships across sectors, promoting social cohesion and countering the current climate of polarization.

What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (You can attach a timeline or GANTT chart in place of a written plan, if desired.) (1000 characters)

24 months:
Year 1:
• 1-3: recruit congregational participants in 5 regions ((Muslim, Jewish and Christian); hire project coordinator; identify environmental and hunger agencies in each region
• 4-6: Organize global and local team meetings to discuss project goals, expand on initial plans, and choose partners in the environmental and hunger sectors
• 7-8: Develop content and resources, including model sermons, flyers for distribution, evaluation forms, etc.; put up a project webpage for sharing of resources and marketing videos; recruit and train volunteers to promote the project in congregations and communities
• 9-10: roll out actions
• 11-12: evaluate impact; collect pictures, stories, best practices to post on website

Year 2:
• 1-3: recruit new participants nationwide; update content based on evaluation and impact studies.
• 4-6: organize meetings as above.
• 7-10: roll out actions
• 11-12: evaluate impact; collect pictures, stories, best practices and pu

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (Feel free to share an organizational chart or visual description of your team). (500 characters)

1 Executive Team:ING Executive Director;Community Engagement Manager;Project Coordinator (will hire to coordinate regional teams,facilitate resource sharing,maintain project webpage,etc)
1 Lead Team:Executive Team;4 ING Affiliate Directors;SF clergy from participating congregations; SF heads of hunger and environmental organizations
4 Regional Teams (MI,CO,AZ,TN):ING Affiliate Directors & staff;heads of congregations and hunger and environmental organizations;regional coordinators (will hire)

What aspects of the idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (500 characters)

• National full-time project coordinator
• Local part-time regional coordinators
• Consulting fees for content development
• Design and printing of flyers
• Travel expenses of speakers marketing and publicizing the project.
• Meeting expenses such as food, and other materials.
• Event expenses such as food, and other materials.
• Operational expenses

In preparation for our Expert Feedback Phase: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in your project? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea and needs.

• How many times does a person need to hear something before s/he acts on it or changes behavior?
• Who are the best influencers or change agents (in the context of what we are working to accomplish in this project)?
• How do we reach those influencers/change agents most effectively?

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

We will mobilize multi-faith action to meet the threefold challenge of peace, prosperity, and planet by organizing diverse faith congregations to respond to hunger and the need for environmental responsibility in their communities, and through these efforts bringing people of different religions and cultures together to dispel prejudice and promote interfaith and intercultural understanding and harmony.
This project is modeled on an initiative of San Francisco Bay mosques that, led by ING, addressed the issue of hunger during the Ramadan fast by:
• Delivering sermons in mosques to raise awareness of hunger and lay out concrete actions to alleviate it
• Distributing that information to congregations and guests at interfaith iftar (fast-breaking) dinners
• Implementing programs to prevent food waste
We will expand this initiative to a multi-faith program, taking it nationwide, and including the issue of environmental care by providing resources and encouragement for faith communities to “green” their houses of worship and households, thus building interreligious cooperation and understanding.
ING in this effort will
• Work locally and with affiliates to recruit congregations to participate
• Provide resources for sermons on hunger and environmental care, building on existing ING interfaith presentation content, and flyers on ways to alleviate hunger, avoid food waste, and “green” houses of worship and households. These will include the perspectives of the religious communities participating and so develop understanding across religious and cultural differences.
• Organize events bringing participants in the program together to reflect on their experience and to plan, thus developing relations across religious and cultural difference
This initiative is the first step in a longer-range effort that will draw communities affected by hunger and environmental degradation into partnership with faith communities to address economic and environmental justice.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

The initial beneficiaries of this program will be the members of the faith communities and congregations participating, who will grow in their knowledge of the perspectives of the faith traditions on hunger and greening and of how to work effectively on hunger (prosperity) and the environment (planet) and, through the common reflection and planning gatherings, will gain understanding of other religious traditions and communities, which in turn will dispel prejudice against and stereotyping of religious and cultural minorities (peace). Those served by the provision of food and resources through this program will also benefit. The entire community will benefit from the promotion of understanding and peace. In the project’s first year, we will focus on 5 regions where ING has affiliates and recruit at least 24 Jewish, Christian, and Muslim congregations; in year 2, we will expand the program nationwide and recruit at least 60 congregations, reaching out to Buddhists and Hindus also.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

This program is unique in leveraging the concern shared by many faith communities for issues of hunger, environmental care, and racism and bigotry to promote action on these issues that is non-partisan and will not provoke division in congregations; it is educational, enabling congregations to translate their concerns into concrete action. ING is uniquely positioned to implement this initiative as it builds on ING’s 25-year history of interfaith education and engagement, through which it has built relationships with leaders and congregations of diverse faiths throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Twenty ING Affiliates and 100+ partner organizations in ING’s Know Your Neighbor network across the country have taken those relationships nationwide. ING’s approach to combating Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry is unique in focusing on changing the beliefs and attitudes that underlie bigoted behavior through education and intercultural engagement such as is proposed here.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Pilot: I have started to implement the idea as a whole with a first set of real users.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a non-profit organization with affiliates around the country that are pursuing peace, and countering all forms of bigotry, through education and interfaith engagement while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism. Please see

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

This project emerged from our experience working with People Acting in Community Together, the local PICO network affiliate, to move mosques to take up hunger during Ramadan, as a first step to mobilizing faith communities to action for social justice. Mosques that joined are continuing this effort through the year and inviting Jews and Christians to speak on hunger from their faith perspective. A one-month Muslim project blossomed to an ongoing interfaith effort that we plan to grow further.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

Peace: racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, and other forms of bigotry have surged over the past two years; to give just a few examples, the number of anti-Muslim bias incidents increased 183% in 2017 over 2015, and 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents were perpetrated in the US in 2017, an increase of 111% over 2015.
Prosperity: the percentage of households in the US suffering food insecurity is higher (12.3%) than the world average (11%).
Planet: the reality and danger of environmental degradation is well known, but many people are unaware of simple concrete steps they can take to “green” their household and community practices.
Members of faith communities are often aware of and concerned about these issues but do not know of concrete, non-controversial steps congregations and their members can take to meet them. This project supplies that need.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

In this project, ING will partner with organizations with which it has established relationships, including
• its affiliates around the country
• organizations representing Jewish, Christian, and other faith communities, including Jewish Community Relations Councils or similar regional Jewish organizations and Roman Catholic dioceses or corresponding regional judicatories of other Christian denominations
• interfaith allies, such as the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Interfaith Youth Core, the National Council of Churches, and the United Religions Initiative, from among the 100+ organizations in ING’s Know Your Neighbor network that encourages and provides resources for events that bring diverse Americans together for mutual learning and relationship building.
These organizations will join in publicizing the program, recruiting congregations to participate, and contributing to its design as it develops.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

• A great diversity of faith communities, many with a history of social concern, and with whom ING has long-standing relations through our work of interfaith engagement.
• Many agencies addressing food insecurity rooted in local neighborhoods.
• ING’s Know Your Neighbor network of over 100 local and national faith-based and community organizations committed to building interfaith understanding and action.
• ING’s network of 20 affiliates in 17 states that duplicate ING’s work in their areas

Geographic Focus

In year 1, 5-7 of the 17 states where ING has affiliates; in year 2, nationwide.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months:
• Year 1:
o 1-2: recruit congregational participants in 5 regions
o 3-8: develop content and strategy, help congregations connect to local hunger and environment organizations
o 9-10: roll out actions
o 11-12: evaluate impact; collect pictures, stories, best practices.
• Year 2:
o 1-3: recruit participants nationwide
o 4-6: revise content, share year 1 lessons , help congregations connect
o 7-8: roll out actions
o 9-12: evaluate impact; collect best practices; plan future.

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Macheru Karuku

Dear Hank,
I think your idea and approach are spot on. I opine that bigotry is widely practiced in different places, it trickles in multiple directions and mostly practiced by those who seek unfair gain over others' woes. Though all pervasive, it is reinforced by many institutions that are not easy to pin point and if you do, it will not be easy to prove. You are therefore tackling a practice that is somewhat ideological thereby making it more difficult challenge.
Your methodology looks great and I am ready to learn and even suggest ideas if needed.
Yours in a Better World.

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