Gardening with a Purpose

Gardening against hunger.
Gardening against hunger.

Feeding America recently released the new hunger map, which details the number of people facing food insecurity in the United States. Over 16 percent of our population is at risk - nearly one-third of these people do not qualify for government food assistance. Over 18 percent of the population where I live don't have enough food to eat.

Who are these people? They are your neighbors, your family, children, seniors, people with disabilities, people with other words they are people you know.

The sad truth is that many people on food assistance, and those who need it but don't qualify do not have access to fresh fruit and vegetables. They simply cannot afford to buy them. That is where gardeners like you and I come in. We can help fight hunger in our communities with our garden surplus.

Food has always been my thing. I grow it, I cook it and I share it. It is how I choose to help people. Our home gardens have provided so much food for our family, friends and neighbors. We also donate our homegrown vegetables to local food pantries. It is one way we, as a family, can make a difference.

If you have a vegetable garden, consider planting an extra row to fight hunger in your neighborhood. Your donations do not have to be huge. They just need to be fresh and healthy.

This year, my husband and I have the opportunity to start a new garden at a new location. Since our home gardens grow more than enough for us, everything in the new garden will be donated to local food pantries. We are going to start small - I don't want to get overwhelmed, and, of course, finances are always an issue.

This is going to be a busy, exciting year. The new garden will eventually cover nearly 4500 square feet. That's a bunch of space. To keep the work manageable, we will be using raised garden beds. That requires some soil, but at least we'll know the soil is safe and ready to grow food. While I would love to use cedar for the garden beds, the cost is somewhat prohibitive. We have chosen to use construction blocks to start with. Maybe eventually we can transition to cedar.

The garden will be planted in April, 2011. Hopefully, by the end of the month we'll have several beds filled and growing healthy food for our community. We've put some thought into what we will be growing during the spring and summer. It is important to choose foods that people are familiar with and know how to use, so there will be no celeriac or cardoons in the new garden. We're going basic. Swiss chard, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and peppers will go in first. These are basics that grow well in the summer time. The fall gardens will be filled with broccoli, cauliflower, kale, carrots, onions and the like. We also have plans for some perennial edibles like kiwi vines and artichokes.

So much work to do!

I encourage you to get involved in the fight against hunger in your neighborhood. Visit to find a food pantry near you that accepts homegrown foods. Feed your family first, then share with friends and neighbors and donate what you have left. It really is that easy. Get your family involved, too. This is a great way to teach your kids about community service.

You can follow our garden progress on our blog, Wood Streets Gardens. See you there!

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