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Archive for Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Food bank starts growing its own produce

AmeriCorps intern Autumn Rice waters the new garden on the property at Just Food pantry, 1200 E. 11th St.  Rice planted the garden in June and Just Food will distribute the garden's produce to its customers, giving them fresh food options. The garden has already produced onions, lettuce and chard and will soon have tomatoes, peppers, squash and zucchini. Eventually the pantry would like to build a greenhouse for year-round growing of fresh produce.

AmeriCorps intern Autumn Rice waters the new garden on the property at Just Food pantry, 1200 E. 11th St. Rice planted the garden in June and Just Food will distribute the garden's produce to its customers, giving them fresh food options. The garden has already produced onions, lettuce and chard and will soon have tomatoes, peppers, squash and zucchini. Eventually the pantry would like to build a greenhouse for year-round growing of fresh produce.

July 23, 2013

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Like many food pantries, Lawrence's Just Food realizes just how hard it can be to obtain fresh produce at a low cost. So it started growing its own.

Last month, the pantry planted a garden on its property in east Lawrence, with a goal of feeding its clients fruits and vegetables and teaching them how to grow their own. Just Food expects to harvest about 1,000 pounds of produce — including watermelon, tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers and spinach — before the season is over.

"This is really part of our initiative to get more produce into the diets of folks," said Just Food CEO Jeremy Farmer. "We also want to show clients that gardening is easy to do."

The gardens are one more step the Lawrence food bank is taking away from the traditional food pantry model, in an effort to address local hunger issues while improving the health of their clients. Just Food, which serves more than 9,000 Douglas County residents a month, now acts as the central food-distribution facility for the county, allowing other local social-service agencies to focus on other needs. It has also switched over to a choice-based food system, which lets clients shop as if they were in a grocery store and pick out only the food they need, cutting down on waste. And it has been providing cooking classes to low-income residents to show them how to prepare healthy food on the cheap, with several participants graduating from the pantry and cutting down on their fast-food use.

Farmer said Just Food came to realize that the most economical food to obtain — processed, loaded with sugar and salt — was also the worst for people's health. So while the food bank may have been feeding the hungry, it might also have been contributing to diseases like obesity and diabetes.

On a recent trip to Vancouver, British Columbia, Just Food volunteer Ace Hickey saw a community organization growing produce in wooden pallets in a vacant lot. He brought the suggestion back to the Lawrence food pantry, where he planted a couple of pallets of his own in the early spring. Then his colleagues thought, "Why not just start a regular garden in the open yard out back?"

Just Food planted the seeds for the program — literally — in early June, relying on donations for everything from the fencing to the tillage. The garden also features conservation measures like rain barrels, which cut down on water use.

Farmer says the pantry also hopes to make its clients recognize the value of gardening, from an economic, nutritional and therapeutic standpoint.

"We're trying to show people that it doesn't take much to grow produce," said Autumn Rice, an AmeriCorps member at Just Food, as she sprayed the garden with water on an oppressively hot day recently. "We can teach them how to be self-sufficient."

Even with the gardens, Just Food is left with a conundrum: how to get fresh fruit and vegetables in the wintertime. The solution: a greenhouse.

That would require a hefty grant or donation (potentially in the range of $10,000). The food pantry would also like the greenhouse to be, well, green: powered by renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro.

"If we could build a greenhouse and have produce year-round, that would be a game-changer for the diets of people in this community," Farmer said.

Comments

StanHernly 1 year ago

Start experimenting with hoop houses and low tunnels before deciding a greenhouse is needed.

1

Naturephile 1 year ago

I encourage Just Food's enthusiasm and drive in starting a vegetable garden but to say....... "We also want to show clients that gardening is easy to do.".....shows that Jeremy Farmer does not have experience, or at least is not realistic, when it comes to growing produce.

Gardening has many benefits, it can be very enjoyable and extremely rewarding and it is certainly a way to very economically improve ones diet, but easy it is NOT. The biggest reason why people start and then quickly give up on growing their own produce is because it takes a concerted effort of energy and time to ensure a successful garden.

I also applaud Just Food's drive to be "green" in their endeavor with the green house. I hope this focus on being environmentally friendly is being extended in their effort to grow food. Unfortunately, no mention in the article on how ecologically friendly in regards to chemical inputs into the garden was mentioned in the story.

4

windjammer 1 year ago

Give them a break as they are just getting started and not as well informed as you.

0

Carol Bowen 1 year ago

Maybe Just Food should ask K-State county extension for help.

1

justfoodks 1 year ago

Naturephile:

To many of our clients, the thought of growing their own food is intimidating and daunting. We're not suggesting that it's easy to till a huge plot of land and keep it up, but to have a pallet garden or a few plants to have fresh produce may perhaps be easier than they would think. We aren't encouraging people to start huge, but small, and then working from there.

We are not using any chemicals on our garden...it is all natural and organic. I think the article mentioned rainbarrels that we are using to water our garden (we are in need of them being filled up again!).

I'd encourage you to come and see. I know we'd love to show you around.

Sincerely, Jeremy

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Kyle Chandler 1 year ago

Im not sure what type of 'gardening' naturphile is doing, but i maintain quite a large food garden myself, alone. Having a few extra helpers would make it a breeze.

Just Food should be a model for all KS food banks, Good Work!

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Matthew Herbert 1 year ago

Awesome game plan. Grow food, not lawns

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ridikkulus 1 year ago

100% agree. This "Pretty, Green Carpet That We Never Actually Use For Anything" is ridiculous.

That being said, as someone who IS a member of the class of "working poor", (Grab your torch and pitchfork, I know...) as well as a full-time student, (Yes, I know, "all my fault for getting a degree in my twenties that would be decried as "liberal" and "useless" twenty years later... Darn my broken psychic abilities...) I have NO time to dedicate to pulling weeds, fertilizing, trimming, "deadheading", much less time to tear it all down in the fall. Some of the people of my "lazy ilk" even have three or four jobs. NOT feasible. (For those who didn't read the whole article, this is in reference to the idea that poor people should grow their own food. Wonderfully idealistic, but not possible.)

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