Growing an edible family garden is a great way to get your kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables. It also provides a terrific opportunity to give back to your community.
Hunger is often hidden in the United States, but it has been exacerbated by the recent recession. It’s estimated that one in eight people in the U.S. are at risk for hunger and that 33 million people, including 13 million children, have to seek emergency food aid each year. What better way to teach young people about hunger than to have them actively involved in growing a garden, or part of a garden, for others? Whether it is in a garden at home or at school, kids growing food to deliver to local food pantries and soup kitchens build awareness of hunger in their community.
When planning to grow food to donate, begin by asking your local food pantry if there are any special vegetables, fruits, or herbs that they would like to have or that are easiest for them to manage. Chances are that crops they can store, such as potatoes and winter squash, would be easiest to handle. That being said, they probably still will take all the bush beans, cucumbers, basil, summer squash, and tomatoes you can give. Also, find out the best time for deliveries. There may be certain months or certain days when they experience higher demand for food. Use this information to decide what you want to grow.
Next, as you lay out your garden, come up with a plan for identifying which part of your harvest you will donate. One idea promoted by the Garden Writers Association is to dedicate one row in the garden for donations. This promotion is known as Plant a Row for the Hungry.
When harvest time comes, volunteer with your kids at the food pantry to help distribute the produce. Consider providing recipes to accompany the fruits and vegetables or maybe even offer cooking demonstrations. It’s a great way for children to see the impact of their donations firsthand.
Not only can kids grow food to give away at food pantries, they can be part of a larger effort by participating in national projects with similar goals. One program designed to foster the growth of community gardens across the country is called Give Back to Grow. Scotts Miracle-Gro Company has teamed up with a number of national nonprofits, including NGA, to create Give Back to Grow. In eight cities nationwide, Scotts is donating money and supplies to either start a new community garden or enhance an existing one. The National Gardening Association, Garden Writers Association and Plant a Row for the Hungry, Keep America Beautiful, and Franklin Park Conservatory are partnering with Scotts by donating resources and materials to help make these community gardens a success.
Gardens and kickoff events* are planned for Houston, Texas (March 10); Los Angeles, California (March 20); West Palm Beach, Florida (April 14); Bentonville, Arkansas (April 27); Atlanta, Georgia (May 4); Bronx, New York (May 12); Marysville, Ohio (May 21); and Charlotte, North Carolina (May 26). It will be a celebration of community gardening, with activities planned for kids and adults.
Whether through growing more food at home or in school, or supporting organizations that are building community gardens, we all can contribute to reducing hunger in America.
*dates are tentative