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This Summer, Grow Some Extra Food for the Hungry

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

Millions of Americans are jobless due to the Covid epidemic and food needs are at an all-time high. Nearly 1 in 4 Americans wonder where their next meal is coming from. And while our economy is slowly improving, millions are still out of work. according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 19 million people live in a food desert where the closest food market is over a mile away. Low-income groups, children, the homeless, and the elderly are especially at risk of food insecurity. After the pandemic is over, the food needs will continue. What can the average gardener do to help?

Grow a Row for the Hungry, an effort sponsored by The American Garden Writers’ Association, encourages home gardeners to grow a bit more and donate the excess to their local food pantry, homeless shelter, or soup kitchen. Many of our food collection centers receive calorie-dense canned fruits and vegetables. Donations of fresh fruits and vegetables, lower in sugars, salt, and carbohydrates but rich in other nutrients, are critically essential to the good health of our fellow citizens. A good diet reduces the bad effects of such diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Here are some ideas to help:

  1. Grow a “Giving Garden”. If not a whole garden, then just a bed, an extra row, or a few extra plants to produce food for donations. Squeeze a mini garden into a sunny corner, a container, or even indoors on a sunny window.

  2. If you start plants indoors, donate extra plants to the local food shelf. Clients are happy to start a home garden.

  3. If you rent a spot at a community garden encourage fellow gardeners to donate their excess to food shelves.

  4. If you cannot garden, offer a spot on your property to a neighbor.

  5. Grow nutrient-dense and desirable vegetables like collards, cucumbers, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, kale, tomatoes, peppers, melons, summer squash, winter squash, beans, potatoes, greens, and herbs.

  6. Grow more by expanding your growing season. Use row covers and other covers to protect them from frost.

  7. Grow more by using succession planting. As soon as one vegetable is harvested and space opens, plant something else.

  8. Keep on picking. Promptly harvesting beans, tomatoes, and summer squash will encourage the plants to keep blooming and producing. Pick tomatoes slightly under-ripe to extend their shelf life. Harvest on time; do not feed the compost bin or the landfill.

  9. Check with This nation-wide organization helps gardeners find food pantries that gratefully accept freshly picked crops for their clients. Enter your zip code to find local pantries in need.

  10. Keep safety in mind. Wear clean gloves when picking. Carefully rinse soil from the food then let them air dry. Pick a bouquet or two of flowers to add joy to some recipient.

  11. Call your chosen food pantry ahead of time to schedule a convenient delivery time.

  12. Make sure that the recipient is truly a non-profit group and is giving away the food for free.

  13. Volunteer to work in a school garden. Teach the next generation about gardening and generosity.

  14. Donate money to your local food shelf or church meal program.

The world’s richest nation should not have hunger problems. As gardeners, we can make a difference.

Happy Gardening,

Joe Baltrukonis


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