Plant a Row for the Hungry
The idea makes perfect sense. Gardeners usually end up growing more of at least a few things than they can use, so rather than let the surplus go to waste, why not give it to those who need it?
That’s the premise of the nationwide Plant a Row for the Hungry program, organized in 1995 by the Garden Writers Association.
Jeff Lowenfels, a garden columnist in Anchorage, Alaska (yes, they garden there), started the very first program when he asked his readers to consider planting an extra row in their garden with the intent to give the bounty to Bean’s Café, an Anchorage soup kitchen. It went over so well that Jeff introduced the idea to GWA.
I’m a long-time member of GWA, and when word went out in 1995 about launching local Plant a Row programs in other parts of the country, it sounded like a great idea for Harrisburg.
The key to making it work is having convenient drop-off spots where gardeners can take their produce. I knew the Harrisburg area already had a prepared-food rescue program called Channels Food Rescue that Jean Beatty had started a few years earlier.
When I told Jean about the new program, she was excited and said that fresh, nutritious food is especially needed.
Channels picks up prepared but unserved food from hotels, hospitals, caterers, restaurants and other food-service operations and delivers it to some 60 soup kitchens, shelters and other anti-hunger agencies in Dauphin, Cumberland and York counties.
Unlike food banks, Channels doesn’t warehouse food. It uses refrigerated trucks to pick up and deliver – usually the same or next day.
Jean set up a network of about a dozen collection points throughout the East and West shores – primarily garden centers and churches. I put out the word to local gardeners. And since that first effort in 1995, Plant a Row has generated more than 24 tons of fresh food that otherwise would’ve gone to waste.
Some of the best crops for Plant a Row are those that keep well, such as tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, melons, beans, apples, pears, head lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, snow peas, cucumbers, squash and onions.
Ideally, the produce should be reasonably clean, free of damage (rotting and/or buggy veggies aren’t helpful) and packed securely in bags, or better yet, boxes.
The best place to take your produce is the Channels office at 3305 N. 6th St., Harrisburg (ideally Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.). Channels also picks up from other satellite locations on the East and West Shores. To find one close to you, call Channels at 717-232-1300.
Please consider putting your growing skills to good use to help feed the hungry. Don’t let unused produce go to waste, or better yet, plant an extra row or two or three just for donation purposes.