Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Food Banks Ask Gardeners to Grow Extra for the Hungry

The Baltimore Sun reports that sharp increases in food and fuel prices and the shaky economy are creating alarming shortages at food banks and pantries around the country at the same time that demand is surging.  To address these shortages, food banks are now asking farmers to grow extra food that they may donate to the banks. 

For example, in Langdon, NH, Mary Lou Huffling, pantry director of Fall Mountain Foodshelf, has begun asking local farmers to grow extra rows of produce to donate.  "Almost everyone around here has a garden," said Huffling, who also runs a program that delivers meals to the hungry in this rural part of southwestern New Hampshire. "If they would grow a row for the food program and the Friendly Meals program [another program she runs], it would help so much." 

At least 50 families have responded to Huffling's request.  She believes about 100 will end up participating. In July, she expects to feed fresh vegetables to 100 to 130 families each week.

The Sun story cites other examples:

Programs like Plant a Row for the Hungry, a national campaign that encourages gardeners to grow extra produce for donation, and New Jersey-based Grow-a-Row, are similar to Huffling's.

"Because of the rising food costs and gas costs people are unable to buy what they need," said Carol Ledbetter, program administrator of the Virginia-based Garden Writers Association, which began sponsoring Plant a Row for the Hungry in 1995. "There's a greater need for the food and so our program is even more important."

Helene Meisser, director of the Northwest New Jersey Community Action Program Inc. in Phillipsburg, said that last year her food bank received about 70,000 pounds of produce from the New Jersey Grow-a-Row through a combination of volunteer farming and food gathering. The food was distributed to charitable agencies in three counties.



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