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 nearly 24 tons of fresh food that otherwise would’ve gone to waste.
For the 2012 campaign, Harrisburg-area gardeners donated 1,115 pounds of surplus garden produce.
Almost all of the 2012 donations came from the “Green Team” — the after-school student garden clubs run by retired teacher Paul Garrett at four Mechanicsburg Area School District elementary schools (Northside, Upper Allen, Broad Street and Elmwood).
The leading donated produce: tomatoes.
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.).
For the 2013 PAR program, nine other satellite drop-off locations on the East and West shores are available.
Gardeners are advised to call ahead to find out exact drop-off hours and procedures since that varies from location to location.
Channels is looking for volunteer drivers who are willing to help collect produce from the drop-off sites. Call 717-232-1300 for details.
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.
Channels can give you more information at 717-232-1300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the Channels office, these are the 2013 collection points:
* Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 1480 Jerusalem Road, Hampden Twp., 717-737-7923.
* Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouses, 906 Grantham Road, Monroe Twp., 717-766-7611.
* Baughman United Methodist Church, 3rd and Bridge Sts., New Cumberland, 717-774-2005.
* Highland Gardens, 423 S. 18th St., Lower Allen Twp., 717-737-8633.
* Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 212 Cocoa Ave., Hershey, 717-533-2467.
* New Hope Church, 584 Colonial Club Drive, Lower Paxton Twp., 717-545-3400.
* St. Theresa Catholic Church, 1300 Bridge St., New Cumberland, 717-774-5918.
* Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill, 5350 Linglestown Road, just outside Linglestown, 717-657-1760.
* Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill, 51 Gettysburg Pike, Upper Allen Twp., 717-766-7993.
If you’re affiliated with an organization that’s interested in becoming a collection point, the more the merrier! Give Channels a call to get on the list: 717-232-1300.