Thursday, February 11, 2010

Grow and Give this Spring

Jamie Robinson, Lettuce Link VISTA, talks about the importance of planting a seed for someone in need. This post comes to you from our friends at Urban Farm Hub:

Plant an Extra Row: Plant a Seed, Feed Someone in Need
If you’ve ever volunteered at a food bank, you may have noticed that the fresh fruits and vegetables are the first to go. Fresh produce is often the most expensive part of a family food budget—and one of the most important parts of a healthy diet. Many food banks of the Puget Sound do their best to provide fresh produce to their clientele, but seldom meet the need.

I am an AmeriCorps member, working with the Seattle Community Farm to develop a new Giving Garden in the Rainier Valley. The idea is to create a garden where community members can work and learn about gardening and nutrition, then take some fresh veggies home. The rest of the produce will be donated to the Rainier Valley Food Bank.

My coworker and I spend several hours a week volunteering at this food bank, getting to know the clientele and the organization. As the hundreds pour in throughout the day, it can feel like a great big, bubbling sea of humanity.

It’s a small, narrow building with an average of three or four hundred clients visiting in one day. But despite the cramped quarters, it is a pretty jovial crowd. Some jokesters are interspersed with a flying brussel sprout or two. Many clients cannot speak English; they are newly arriving from Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, or Latin America. Children often accompany their parents. The bigger ones may help with interpretation and the smaller ones are towed along through the crowd like a dinghy.

But for all of the diversity that floods the Rainier Valley Food Bank, there is a consistent similarity among the clients: everyone loves the fresh produce. Apples, potatoes, carrots, cabbages, onions. No matter what it is, people are happy to have fresh food available. Real food is something that we all have in common.

So if you normally donate canned goods to your local food bank, consider a new approach this spring: plant an extra row or two in your garden! Food banks love extra fruits and veggies. Pick one thing to grow—some easy additions are: beets, carrots, collard greens, onions, herbs (dill, basil, rosemary, etc.), beans, peas, cucumbers, squash, pak choi, radishes, and lettuce. When it’s time to harvest, just wash up and bag your produce. This makes it easier to distribute to food bank clientele. Keep track of your produce donations and remember to send totals to Lettuce Link at the end of the season, so we can see the amount of garden produce shared throughout the year.

Lettuce Link increases access to fresh organic produce, vegetable seeds, and gardening assistance throughout the Seattle area. In 2008, P-Patchers, backyard gardeners, and Marra Farm donated 54,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce to over twenty food banks and hot meals programs in Seattle. As we move into 2010, Lettuce Link volunteers will be distributing vegetable seed packets at food banks, to involve more people in gardening. If you have questions about food bank hours and locations, see the Where to Donate List. It is updated annually and has specific items desired by each food bank.

This article was originally published on Urban Farm Hub on February 11.

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