Thursday, January 1, 2015

Connecting Community Gardens and Food Pantries

The world is full of sad news, bad news, horrifying news.  Violence and evil dominate it seems.  Ugly, disheartening violence.  But there's some good news out there, too. Today, day 1 of 2015, is a good time to remember that.

Many brave people are fighting for peace and justice all over the world. The worldwide struggle for civil society continues, from the efforts of Nobel prize winners down to the grassroots dedication of ordinary people.  Most change for the better comes, I think, from the bottom up.

It's so here in Toledo, Ohio, and the NW Ohio area.  Lots of local organizations are doing good work housing, clothing and feeding the homeless, the wounded, the needy. Our Ukrainian friends visited many of them during their Open World international exchange program in November.  They were impressed. Our visitors are doing the same kind of work in the towns and villages where they live, even under the most trying of circumstances, and were able to take lots of new ideas home with them.

These voices from the bottom up are often muted, stories buried under thundering headlines of society's ills.  I look for them wherever I can find them, anecdotes to the news that fills us with gloom and doom.

I recently read of a great effort originating in a bountiful garden in New Jersey.   An enthusiastic gardener, Gary Oppenheimer, was growing more food than he needed and didn't want his produce to go to waste. He decided to connect with a local pantry that provides food to victims of domestic violence.  "If there's food you can't use...get it to someone who needs it."

So he created Ample Harvest.  Oppenheimer has signed up more than 7,000 food pantries across the country.  They are now providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those who need it. Healthy food, good for the body and soul, a nice addition to all those canned goods many of us donate!

Most of these exchanges are seasonal, but I have an idea more will come out of this, including freshly preserved fruits and vegetables that can be sold as well as given to food pantries.  In fact, the food pantries might be able to come up with some entrepreneurial ventures of their own.
A community garden,
Toledo Blade

Reading about this project made me think of the community gardens here in the Toledo area. Some of these gardens have honeybee hives, which produce yummy fresh honey that is gathered, packaged, and sold as well as shared.  The Franciscan Sisters' garden has a polyhouse, a plastic greenhouse, that allows them to grow food year round.  New gardens are starting up near Scott high school and other city locations. These gardens, now over 160 of them, are members of "Toledo Grows," an outreach program of the Toledo Botanical Gardens.

Marcy Kaptur, our U.S. Congressional Representative  (Ohio District 9), is a huge supporter of these community gardens, along with efforts to protect and preserve our Maumee river environment, the Lake Erie watershed, and yes, honeybees.

I think she would like the idea of Ample Harvest.  We can all give any surplus from our own gardens to agencies that feed the poor.  And we can easily connect our community gardens and our food pantries in lots of different and beneficial ways. Such a project won't take a lot of money, but for sure it will have lots of benefits, a "harvest of caring."

Article on Ample Harvest:

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