Meet Daijah Suggs, CJ’s orchard manager. When Daijah isn’t working at the orchard, she’s working as a MARTA market manager for Community Farmers Markets. And when she isn’t doing that, she’s volunteering her time with Concrete Jungle as a volunteer pick leader.Continue reading “Meet Daijah, Concrete Jungle’s Orchard Manager”
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Meet Sheneka, CJ Board Member + Volunteer
We caught up with CJ board member and volunteer Sheneka White after she finished leading a flying dragon fruit juicing session at the Edgewood Community Learning Garden. Whenever there’s a unique volunteer opportunity for Concrete Jungle, she steps up to help.
Sheneka grew up around “farm to table people,” gardening with her dad and grandma, and eating her mom’s delicious chicken bog (a “super-specific and super-regional” specialty from her part of South Carolina). Now, she serves on both the Community Engagement Committee and the Board of Directors for Concrete Jungle, but she still finds time to go to fruit picks and farm days. “I like the people I’ve met,” she shares. “I always end up having a good conversation at events.”Continue reading “Meet Sheneka, CJ Board Member + Volunteer”
Meet Julie: CJ Volunteer
As we approach the end of the year and reflect on all that CJ has accomplished, we want to share stories from our community. Meet Julie, a new Concrete Jungle volunteer. Julie and her children first got involved with CJ at one of our adventure picks, harvesting apples in the mountains of Tiger, Georgia.
Julie is originally from Tennessee but moved to Atlanta for a fresh start a few years ago. She volunteered with a variety of food justice initiatives around town before finding her way to Concrete Jungle. When she saw the Tiger apple pick opportunity in August, she thought it was the perfect opportunity for the whole family to get their hands dirty for a good cause.Continue reading “Meet Julie: CJ Volunteer”
Meet Ryan Bigg, CJ Partner
As we approach the end of the year and reflect on all that CJ has accomplished, we want to share stories from our community. We sat down with Ryan Bigg, Food Pantry Coordinator at Intown Collaborative Ministries (ICM) – one of CJ’s partners. Ryan is an Atlanta native and an Emory grad. He has spent his career in nonprofit work, moving between food insecurity, homelessness services, and youth development.
Ryan started at ICM in 2020 in the early days of the pandemic as a housing navigator. Now he works on the food programs for ICM. Ryan said the most rewarding part of the job is seeing people’s reactions and appreciations to the food they serve and prepare, “I enjoy talking to people and meeting them where they are in their journey.” We keep hearing from our partner organizations: people come for the food but they stay for the community and sense of connection.Continue reading “Meet Ryan Bigg, CJ Partner”
Meet Carl DiSalvo: CJ Board Member
As we round out another fruitful year, we need your help. You – our community – are critical to CJ’s success. We rely on you to help us harvest the fruits of local trees. And we rely on you to donate the fruits of your own labor, so that we can get more produce to people who need it.
Your donation at the end of the year will support CJ as we draw the map to the future. With your help, we will increase our capacity to meet the nutrition needs of communities experiencing food insecurity.Continue reading “Meet Carl DiSalvo: CJ Board Member”
Meet Shawanda: Athens Hunger Relief Partner
Meet Shawanda Johnson, one of our hunger relief partners at our Athens branch. Shawanda is a Neighborhood Leader in Winterville – a position which allows her to be a resource hub for 25 low-income families in her neighborhood.
Shawanda does it all! She explains that she “meets people where they are” and asks what they need instead of making assumptions. For her clients, she provides anything from SNAP assistance to mental health services to access to fresh produce. Her office closet is filled with clothes, baby diapers, prom dresses, and many other resources that families raising children may need. Her goal is to help residents become self-sufficient so that they benefit from her assistance but do not depend on it. She also runs her own cooking business, Shawanda’s Kitchen, where she teaches cooking classes and prepares nutritious meals for people.Continue reading “Meet Shawanda: Athens Hunger Relief Partner”
Meet Lauren: Athens Program Manager
Meet Lauren Towe – Program Manager for our Athens branch of Concrete Jungle. With the University at its center, Athens can be a bit of a transitory town. But Lauren is one of those rare lifelong Athens natives, and her roots go deep in this community.
As Program Manager, Lauren really does it all. She manages volunteers on the ground, scouts local fruit trees, maintains relationships with our partners at UGArden and Campus Kitchen, and coordinates farmers market and grocery collections (amongst a thousand other things). She’s A++ at juggling all the fruity things!Continue reading “Meet Lauren: Athens Program Manager”
Meet Herman: Mercy & CJ Client
We sat down with a current client of Mercy Community Church – Herman. Herman is on a journey of rehab and recovery, and Mercy is there for him through the process. Herman laughed as he told us, “You know, you can’t have recovery your way. You can’t. It’s not going to work. But I’m blessed to be in a community church who loves me. They help me through the process.”
Herman added, “And I’ve got food! I see you guys, and I get veggies and stuff, fruits to take home.” We asked Herman what he liked to take from Concrete Jungle, and he said, “Potatoes, carrots. I’ll go back and make a salad. I’m a fan of salads. See, I worked in a restaurant before this. I learned how to do prep and how to make a meal stretch. Concrete Jungle helps you stretch a meal. Whoever came up with the idea, came up with a pretty good idea. Because it serves the community.”Continue reading “Meet Herman: Mercy & CJ Client”
Meet Craig: Concrete Jungle Co-Founder
As we look back at the history of Concrete Jungle’s fruit tree map, who better to talk to than the creator of CJ’s fruit map? Meet Craig Durkin. Craig and his friend Aubrey Daniels started Concrete Jungle back in 2009. But the map existed even before that.
Craig first set up the map to help himself and his friends find free food. It was a simple Google map with markers on it that showed where fruit trees were, but it also had other ways to recover food too – like dumpsters where you could get bags of bagels and donuts. In the beginning, Craig says that it was pretty basic: “There wasn’t a whole lot of community around it. I’m not sure how many people even knew about it.” Today, the map has grown beyond Craig’s initial vision for the project.Continue reading “Meet Craig: Concrete Jungle Co-Founder”
Meet Pastor Chad: Hunger Relief Partner at Mercy Community Church
Meet Pastor Chad of Mercy Community Church. Pastor Chad started Mercy over 17 years ago, with service as its core mission. Mercy was one of the first sites to receive Concrete Jungle’s produce when we began 12 years ago.
Pastor Chad explains, “Waking up in the morning, coming in, preparing breakfast, and serving it to people who are hungry seems very direct. And it’s not one group of people doing something for another group of people. It’s us, working together to do something. It’s really about building community. We’re all working together to try to care for one another, respect one another, carve out spaces of justice and dignity and peace and wellbeing.”Continue reading “Meet Pastor Chad: Hunger Relief Partner at Mercy Community Church”
Meet Shelley: Atlanta Volunteer
Meet Shelley Rose, a dedicated Concrete Jungle volunteer. Shelley worked extensively with Concrete Jungle on our food delivery programs during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shelley moved around growing up, but her family eventually came to Atlanta during her senior year of high school. After some time away pursuing her own education, she returned to make Atlanta her home and has never looked back. It was her connection to her synagogue that put her in touch with Concrete Jungle.Continue reading “Meet Shelley: Atlanta Volunteer”
Meet Scott: Tree Donor
Meet Scott! He lives in a unique neighborhood in Norcross called Adams Vineyard – a neighborhood with an amazing history and TWO HUNDRED muscadine vines.
“I believe there’s about 15 different varieties of muscadines. They were planted by Colonel John Adams. After serving in three wars, when he came home, his wife had polio. And so he wanted to be close to her. He started putting some shoots in over the years…. it turned into this with 200 vines. Now, there’s about 60 homes that form a loop road around this green space and conservation area, and there’s vines in the neighborhood that have been here over 80 years. It’s quite unique and we’re very fortunate to live with this beautiful space.”Continue reading “Meet Scott: Tree Donor”
Meet Tulsi: Athens Volunteer
Meet Tulsi TenEyck, one of Concrete Jungle Athens’ dedicated volunteers. Tulsi is passionate about the Athens community, as this town has been her home for 15 years. She loves to learn about plants in the area and to create a greater sense of community and connection with her surroundings.
Tulsi first found Concrete Jungle through CJ’s Edible Landscape Walk in May 2022 that highlighted fruit trees on the University of Georgia campus. As she explains, “We got to meet all kinds of fruit and nut trees. And it just rocked my world. It opened up my eyes to some information that I’ve been really yearning for and looking for – to learn what is growing around us. And I was just like, ‘oh my gosh, these are my people. This is how I’d like to spend my time.’ So it was after that campus walk, I was hooked.”Continue reading “Meet Tulsi: Athens Volunteer”
Meet Adam Hicks: Field Manager
We managed to snag some time with Concrete Jungle’s Field Manager, Adam Hicks, to chat about all things fruit and community. As Field Manager, Adam leads our weekly in-town fruit picks as well as our monthly adventure picks.
Adam is also responsible for figuring out where the food we harvest will be donated. He also leads our Produce Education and Enjoyment Loop (PEEL) program. Adam explains, “PEEL is our educational programming so that the people we’re serving have a better understanding of the value of the food, whether it’s nutritional value or how to prepare it. That way, they’re more likely to take it and use it once they receive it.”
Adam’s role is unique in that he’s truly involved in the whole Concrete Jungle (CJ) process, from tree to table. He organizes volunteers to harvest the produce, figures out where the produce is going to go, and then coordinates or leads cooking demos.Continue reading “Meet Adam Hicks: Field Manager”
Meet Nichole: Director of Programs & Operations
Meet Nichole Fields-Kyle, Concrete Jungle’s Director of Program and Operations. Nichole is responsible for supporting our staff on the ground as well as overseeing all the behind-the-scenes operations that provide fresh food for our community.
Like many other CJ staff, Nichole got her start with Concrete Jungle as a volunteer. Nichole is a transplant by way of California and New York. When she arrived in Atlanta, she immediately looked for a way to get her hands dirty.
As she puts it, “I came that first day to volunteer and was fresh off the plane, maybe 4 days into living in Atlanta. And I actually met one of our other coworkers there, who was also a volunteer at the time. He asked me such great questions about myself. Not like, ‘So, what do you do for fun? ‘or ‘What do you do for work?’, but really wanting to get to know me. After that, I took the MARTA train for an hour to get to the farm every other Saturday during my first year living here. Just because of that sense of community. I didn’t know anyone here, but all of these people were coming together to sweat for two hours, to do this volunteer work, and they really cared whether I showed up or not.”Continue reading “Meet Nichole: Director of Programs & Operations”
CJ Partner: Ernesta Ingram with Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center
For over 30 years the Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center, or SWEEAC, has assisted hundreds of families by delivering whole, quality foods to those who need it in the Metro Atlanta area. In total, they have supported 50,000 families and distributed over 1 million lbs of food to families across the state of Georgia. Additionally, SWEEAC encourages families to focus on their spiritual, mental and physical health with the goal to empower clients with the tools to be self-sufficient and productive members of society — which they do well.
With all the good SWEEAC does for the community, it’s supporters like Ernesta Ingram, an ex-executive who decided to spend her time giving back to Atlanta by providing food assistance to disadvantaged families that make nonprofits specializing in food insecurity thrive. Ernesta was instrumental during the Concrete Jungle Covid Grocery Delivery Program, and she has been an enthusiastic ally in the food insecurity area.Continue reading “CJ Partner: Ernesta Ingram with Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center”
PEELing Off! And Meet Claire!
My name is Claire Fendrick, and I am the new PEEL Program lead here at Concrete Jungle! I am a second year Masters student at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. During my senior year of college, I developed a deeper interest in the food justice movement, and decided that it was the field in which I hoped to explore when I moved to Atlanta for grad school. This interest led me to Concrete Jungle, where I’ve been working since the fall of 2020. During the 2020-2021 school year, I co-led the COVID-19 Grocery Delivery Program from September to June. Now that we’ve wrapped up GDP, I’m moving on to helping the transition back into PEEL programming for the fall!Continue reading “PEELing Off! And Meet Claire!”