Growing Together: How Community Gardens Could Be The Solution To Feeding The Hungry

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Community gardens are springing up throughout the nation to meet high demand for fresh produce, as well as to feed the hungry. The shared garden spaces are found in urban and rural areas, but are particularly popular in cities, where space to plant vegetables is at a premium.

According to WV Public Broadcasting, the First Lutheran Church in Parkersburg, West Virginia maintains a community garden, offering fresh produce to anyone who has difficulty acquiring it otherwise. Volunteers harvest the vegetables and then give them away, free of charge, at a produce stand on the lot.

When the church started the community garden project in 2012, it allowed anyone in the community to go into the garden plot and pick the produce they wanted. However, recently they discovered a number of people were stealing into the garden at night and taking more than their share. Now the church protects the garden with a fence and locked gate, offering vegetables at the stand at regularly scheduled times.

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Demand for fresh vegetables is so high in Parkersburg that the church recently expanded its community garden project by planting at an additional space. Carlina Titus, a local woman, offered a lot that she owns across town to the church for use as a second garden spot. She said she was no longer able to maintain her own garden due to her husband’s deteriorating health, and thought the church’s work was admirable.

The lot is nearly double the size of the original church garden. However, even adding its yield to the stores available to share, church volunteers say they give away nearly all the vegetables they have on hand every day the produce stand is open.

The concept of growing produce for those in need also drives the Plant a Row for the Hungry project in the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, according to USA Today. There, volunteers work dozens of garden plots, donating their harvest to local food pantries and soup kitchens. The effort generates roughly 12,000 pounds of produce per year for People to People, the region’s largest food pantry.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Community Food Bank in Georgia provides assistance to those managing more than 100 community gardens across Atlanta. The organization provides expertise, tools and seeds to those interested in establishing their own local gardens, in hopes of seeing communities feed themselves fresh, healthy produce they have grown themselves. Once the gardens are up and growing, neighborhood volunteers maintain them, sharing responsibilities and the fruits of their labor.

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In the Mid-South, the GAIA-Movement, a nonprofit organization, and Huey’s burger restaurant are teaming up to feed the hungry in Memphis, Tennessee, reports LocalMemphis. The two entities teamed up to start a community garden on a formerly vacant lot in Midtown Memphis. Huey’s purchased the lot in 2014, but didn’t know what to do with the land. Then Sarah Taylor, of the Memphis-based GAIA-Movement, suggested they grow vegetables and fruits there and donate the produce to local shelters and food banks. Huey’s management agreed.

Today, Huey’s staff and volunteers harvest everything from cucumbers to cantaloupes from the garden. In addition to donating the produce to food banks and shelters, they give a portion to a local soup kitchen, where the food can be used to feed hungry people immediately. Huey’s maintains the garden year-round, and is considering starting a second community plot in another Memphis neighborhood.

The City of Bloomington, Indiana offers not only several community gardens, but also community garden classes for those who have the space to maintain their own gardens at home. City staff are prepared to assist those starting gardens by helping with site preparation, building fencing and creating composting facilities. The city employs a garden supervisor who is available to answer questions, and lends tools during scheduled times of the week. Several of the city’s community gardens include wheelchair-accessible paths and raised beds.

These organizations work every day to help feed the hungry, but you can assist these efforts by visiting The Hunger Site from GreaterGood. Proceeds from every purchase go toward charities working to end food insecurity.

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The Hunger Site is a place where people can come together to help the hungry, in the U.S. and around the world. In addition to signing petitions, shopping for the cause, and staying informed about hunger and poverty, visitors can take just a moment each day to click on a yellow button to provide much-needed food for people in need. Visit The Hunger Site and click today - it's free!