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Archive for Sunday, April 11, 2010

Plant a row for the hungry: Just Food program allows donors to contribute fresh produce

Damien St. Julien, warehouse manager at Just Food/ECKAN, 1200 E. 11th  Street, works Thursday packaging food into grocery bags to be picked up from the food bank. Just Food will be distributing fresh produce yields from this year's Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign.

Damien St. Julien, warehouse manager at Just Food/ECKAN, 1200 E. 11th Street, works Thursday packaging food into grocery bags to be picked up from the food bank. Just Food will be distributing fresh produce yields from this year's Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign.

April 11, 2010

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Fresh produce awaits visitors to Just Food of ECKAN, 1200 E. 11th  St. There will be a mobile food distribution on Monday, July 12, beginning at 10 a.m. The food will be delivered by Harvesters Community Food Network. Douglas County residents are encouraged to wait until 10 a.m. to pick up food — not earlier — because parking space is limited.

Fresh produce awaits visitors to Just Food of ECKAN, 1200 E. 11th St. There will be a mobile food distribution on Monday, July 12, beginning at 10 a.m. The food will be delivered by Harvesters Community Food Network. Douglas County residents are encouraged to wait until 10 a.m. to pick up food — not earlier — because parking space is limited.

As you plan and plant your garden this year, think about planting an extra row of fruits or vegetables to donate to area residents who need it.

The Just Food/ECKAN Food Bank at 1200 E. 11th St. makes it easy to get extra produce where it needs to go. You can drop off fresh produce and other food at the food bank from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday.

The food bank, which just opened last year, gives people a central location to drop off items that can then be re-distributed among various agencies in Lawrence and Douglas County. It also has a cold storage facility to make perishable fruits and vegetables last just a little bit longer.

"Whether it's two tomatoes or five bushels of zucchini, every little bit helps," says Cindy Haines, a Douglas County resident and Master Gardener. "It's a gesture to the community that we care."

Haines led an effort in 2009 with fellow Master Gardeners to distribute excess produce from area farms and the Downtown Lawrence Farmers' Market. In the project's first year, Master Gardeners delivered thousands of pounds of would-be-discarded produce to local agencies.

"It just grew out of a frustration of letting good food go to waste when we knew there were people in Douglas County who would appreciate it," Haines says. "We saw a need and tried to fill it."

She also jokes about having to find something to do with the extra zucchini from her garden once her friends and neighbors started locking their houses and cars.

With a central drop-off point and an established network, Haines is asking those who can to think about contributing.

"We can put our talents as gardeners to good use."

Plant A Row for the Hungry is a nationwide initiative that originated in 1995. Many gardeners already grow more than they can consume, so the program encourages gardeners to donate any excess fruits and vegetables.

Haines identified a second need as she delivered truckloads of fruits and vegetables to local agencies last year.

"We would bring the produce in, and a lot of times people didn't know how to prepare it or felt like it would be too difficult to prepare."

She also shared stories of adults who didn't know what cantaloupes were or what to do with a cucumber. Haines approached the Master Food Volunteers to develop simple recipes and tips for preparation and usage of fresh fruits and vegetables. The volunteer group is hoping to have this information available alongside the produce later this year.

Haines and her fellow Master Gardeners also serve as mentors and assist with the establishment of gardens for community and nonprofit organizations with the intention of making fresh, local food more accessible to all residents.

  • Jennifer Smith is the Horticulture Extension Agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas Count. Contact her or an Extension Master Gardener with your gardening questions at 843-7058.

Comments

Clevercowgirl 4 years, 8 months ago

This is an excellent example of what our community can do to help those in need of food. I can't wait to plant a row (or 5) with my kids, and help them see, hands on, how to make a difference. Kudos to all who started this program.

Sharon Roullins 4 years, 5 months ago

It is a great program indeed. I've had the pleasure of being on both ends, receiving fresh produce from Just Food and sorting and bagging it when I volunteer. Kudos to the gardeners!

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