Since you are more than likely still working on your New Year’s Resolutions, including creating you new garden plan, and sorting through a large pile of garden supply and seed catalogs now filling up your mailbox, why not include others in your bounty as you plot out your edible garden for the year?
The news has been full of stories illustrating the increased demand that local food banks and food pantries are facing, much of it resulting from the recession. Even without the increased demand, many don’t receive enough, if any, fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, particularly the smaller food pantries or shelters.
So, as you are laying out your garden plan, consider growing an extra row just to help those in need. This concept is not new. In fact, the Garden Writers Association created the “Plant A Row for The Hungry,” campaign in which garden writers are asked to encourage their readers/listeners to plant an extra row of produce each year and donate their surplus to local food banks, soup kitchens, and other service organizations to help feed America’s hungry.
The Garden Writers’ site provides resources to help you find or start a “Plant a Row” campaign or committee in your area, places to donate produce to, and even information on hunger statistics.
Even if you don’t plant an “extra” row, once your spring and early summer crops start producing you might find you still have extra even after you’ve given plenty to your friends and family. Those of us who garden know the sheer look of horror on many of their faces as we approach them with yet another handful of zucchini or tomatoes after already giving them ten or twelve loads.
In the pre-internet days, one of the biggest challenges for home gardeners was finding a local pantry or shelter to donate their garden bounty to. Now, there are several great sites with maps showing food pantries closest to you. These include Second Harvest and Ample Harvest, which help you find food pantries in your area simply by typing in your zip code. Ample Harvest also has a special page for gardeners with tips on what kinds of produce are best to give to those in need and when to pick them.
And, remember, even though growing season might be over where you are, or hasn’t even started yet, hunger knows no season. Food pantries need your help all year, so you might consider donating store-bought or other items to them now while you are waiting for your produce to grow.