My community garden has been donating produce to a great program this year. Our set-up is unusual, in that we have a large-ish (for our small garden) communal section in additional to the typical individual plots found in your average community garden. We’ve been able to donate most of our produce from that area to Plant-A-Row-for-Haiti (PARH), run through the Haitian American Public Health Initiative and Boston Natural Areas Network.
Garden members shared the produce from this section in previous seasons. In the past, our communal section has really functioned as a teaching garden. Folks new to gardening would come, learn a bit, and some of them would wander on to other gardens or acquire confidence and get their own plots in our garden. (Some decided gardening was not for them.) Oddly enough, everyone who is gardening this year was already quite comfortable with gardening so we only had one gardener who did not have his own plot. So there has been less demand for the delicious food we’ve been producing.
Coincidentally, PARH was initiated this year as a response to the earthquake in January and the extra burdens placed on Haitian families in the Boston area. To date, over 3,000 pounds of produce have been donated to the Haitian community. Our garden has had the pleasure of donating absurd amounts of kale, a few squash, some collards, turnips, collards, chard, purslane, beans, cucumbers, and bok choy. Every other week, we have sent between four and six bushels of food.
Food pantries are notorious for lacking healthy, fresh food and it’s been a pleasure to help make a small difference. While improving the systems and structures that fail people should be the long term goal, hunger is an immediate need. For my corner garden to provide produce that was picked that same day to families maintain a healthful diet during trying times is revolutionary compared to supermarket seconds or sugary cereals that often come from pantries. Both calories and nutrients are important, and our garden donations help bolster both.
Paying it forward and feeding the community should be a consideration in community gardens. Some gardens already serve the essential function of feeding families in need through their membership, but those who do not should consider working with a local soup kitchen or food pantry. We have found it to be satisfying, and intend to continue our community service next year.