Gardening for Good

Even though I was a panelist at a recent summit on food justice, I’m still shocked by the statistics on hunger in this country. Thirty-three million Americans, including 13 million children, live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger.

It breaks my heart to know so many people, especially children, go hungry every day.

That’s why I’m redoubling my efforts to get gardeners involved in our local growing-and-giving program called Plant a Row for the Hungry.

Plant a Row (PAR) follows the long tradition of gardeners sharing their bounty with others. Even if you’ve never grown a green before, now’s the time to start.

Vegetable Gardeners Unite!

Plant a Row is a national program of the Garden Writers Association that began in 1995. Since then, gardeners across the country have donated more than 16 million pounds of produce to local food service agencies.

In Denver last year, gardeners reported donating more than 1220 pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs to 20 different food service agencies. Many gardeners posted their vegetable totals on our Plant a Row Colorado Facebook page and included photos of their gardens with their updates.

I hope you’ll join us this year.

Every gardener who donates home-grown produce to a food bank makes a difference in someone’s life. All you have to do is plant, donate and get counted.

The campaign is called Plant a Row, but that doesn’t mean you have to plant an entire row. If you can plant an extra tomato plant or a few more zucchini seeds, it means fresh produce to help feed a hungry household.

This beautiful platter of Sungold tomatoes came from a single plant that grew in a container on one gardener’s patio. There are enough tomatoes here to supplement a family’s meals for several days.

I have a small vegetable bed, but was able to grow several Trombetta di Albenga summer squash vines on a trellis last year. This delicious vegetable has many uses in the kitchen and there were plenty to share.

Get Growing

If you want to plant with a purpose this spring, here are some Plant a Row tips to help you get started:

  • Find a nearby food bank, soup kitchen or church pantry and ask if there are specific needs for fresh produce.
  • Select vegetables and herbs that are good keepers and can be used in many different ways, like broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, peas, green beans, apples, and winter squash. Summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes, sweet peppers, basil, beets, and kale are also good choices.

  • Choose hardy, disease-resistant varieties that are easy to grow.
  • Plant vegetables that mature early and that will produce throughout the entire season either by staggering maturity dates or planting in succession.
  • Recruit family members, coworkers, friends, neighbors and garden club members to join in the effort.
  • Remind neighborhood soup kitchens and food pantries to register with Ample Harvest so more gardeners can find them.

Will you join us in Planting a Row for the Hungry? Please volunteer by contacting me at Jodi@WesternGardeners.com.


 

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Comments

I’m really curious about the summer squash you are mentioning: Trombetta di Albenga Do you know of a local source for seeds? Squash needs so much space. I’d love to try growing vertically!
Thanks for the link on food banks – I found one really close to my house so I’ll know where to donate. Right now I have gobs of French sorrel – we love it at my house (including my 5 year old) but I’m concerned it’s not something I can donate since people generally aren’t familiar with it…

Hi Kate:

Thanks for asking about the squash–I’m not sure about a local source for seeds, but you could try calling independent garden centers to see if they carry Renee’s Seeds and ask for that variety. The best bet is to order directly from Renee’s Seeds website.

I’m glad you found a food bank close to you. A couple of things you could do is to call ahead and ask when/how they like to receive fresh produce. For the French sorrel you could include some easy preparation instructions for using the sorrel in everyday cooking or recipes the food pantry volunteers can hand out with the produce. Include recipes that don’t require a lot of other (or expensive) ingredients.

Thanks for wanting to help Plant a Row for the Hungry!
Jodi

Thanks Jodi! I just ordered the squash seeds. 🙂

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