Several years ago I heard of a program called Plant A Row for the Hungry. I didn’t know much about its origin but it sounded like a worthwhile project. So I participated and
have ever since. It’s rewarding to help out the community and garden at the same time.
The program is quite simple. People are encouraged to grow one extra row of food in
their gardens for the hungry. It takes very little time and it’s amazing how it will
benefit local food pantries and food kitchens.
Research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has found that one in ten
households in the United States experience hunger or the risk of hunger. Many families
skip meals, eat too little, or go without food for an entire day. Children in these families are much more susceptible to illness and health problems that will appear later in
life due to malnutrition.
Approximately 25 million people have substandard diets. They reach out to public
services for emergency food supplies because they cannot afford the food they need. In the past years, the demand for assistance has increased more than the donations needed to feed the hungry. This results in people being turned away from food banks each year. If you watch the news, particularly around the holidays you have seen it’s harder and harder for the food banks to meet their basic food quotas. Add a holiday with a larger food demand and it’s a sad story.
The Plant a Row for the Hungry program (PAR) was started by the Garden Writer’s Association to reach out to people and let them know there was a problem and that they could help in a very easy way. There are over 70 million gardeners in the U.S. alone. Many plant vegetables and from my experience as a gardener there is always more produce from the garden than you can use.
If every gardener plants one extra row of vegetables and donates their surplus to local
food banks and soup kitchens, there would be a significant impact on reducing hunger. Food agencies will have access to fresh healthy produce. Funds that were earmarked for produce can be redirected to other needed items and the hungry would have more and
better food than is presently available.
The Garden Writers Association
The Garden Writers Association utilize their media position with newspapers, magazines and radio/TV programs to encourage people to donate their surplus garden produce to local food banks, soup kitchens and service organizations to help feed America’s hungry.
PAR’s role is to provide training, direction and support to volunteer committees to carry
out the programs at local levels. They will also assist in coordinating the local food
collection systems and monitor the volume of donations to the soup kitchens and food
PAR began in Anchorage, AK, in the garden column of Jeff Lowenfels, former Garden
Writers Association president. He realized the food shortage problems for families and
asked gardeners to plant a row of vegetables for Bean’s Cafe, an Anchorage soup kitchen.
Since then, PAR has grown through continued media support, individual and company
sponsorship, and volunteerism. In 2008 PAR will celebrate its 14th anniversary. If you
would like more information go to http://www.gardenwriters.org
When growing a crop you can chose to grow one vegetable or several. It takes very little
time and only costs the price of a pack of seeds. It’s also nice to know you have helped
a neighbor out.
I have supplied squash, beans and tomatoes to two local food pantries. In the fall I try to
supply extra winter squash, potatoes and carrots. These are crops that will hold in
storage for a month or two.
No family and person should go to sleep hungry. If we all reach out we can help to
solve the problem; one town at a time and one crop at a time.