Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Plant A Row for the Hungry

Community Gardens at Franklin Park Conservatory Plant a Row for the Hungry Initiatives Help Local Food Banks
© Christine Eirschele Aug 30, 2008

Plant A Row for the Hungry supports community gardens at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio. These initiatives provide fresh food to the Mid Ohio Food Bank.

Community garden programs like Growing to Green, located at Franklin Park Conservatory, is a grass roots initiative. Located in Columbus, Ohio, Growing to Green teaches local citizens to become gardeners while they grow food for their families. Bill Dawson, Coordinator of Growing to Green, started with the program in 2000. Today, the program has three community garden systems each donating a percentage of their harvest to a soup kitchen, food pantry or through the Mid Ohio Food Bank.

Community Garden Programs
The demonstration garden is located on ¼ acre of land within Franklin Park Conservatory. Visitors to the conservatory will see examples of growing vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and fruits. Plants are grown in two raised beds, some with heirloom varieties, and demonstrations like composting techniques. This garden donates 95 percent of the food to local pantries and 5 percent goes to the cafe at the conservatory.

In Columbus, there is a community garden with 18, 16’ x 8,’ plots designated for citizens. When renting these plots, gardeners agree to donate a percentage of the harvest to a local food bank of their choice.

Out in the community there are an additional 100 gardens. In these, gardeners stick to the “one-third rule.” A third goes directly to the gardener; another third donated to the food bank and a third is sold, using the money to improve the gardens.

Mr. Dawson sees an upward trend in vegetable gardening. Since starting Growing to Green, he estimates the number of garden plots expand 15 – 20 per year. Community gardens empower people improving lives through access to healthy food, outdoor exercise and provide a way to help others.

Mid Ohio Food Bank
The Mid Ohio Food Bank’s 2006 statistics indicate they provide 43,000 meals for hungry people each day, helping more than 193,000 people per year. This is a 44 percent increase since 2001. They deliver food to more than 530 soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters in central Ohio.
In Ohio, 70 percent of emergency food programs are conducted by faith-based initiatives. Ninety-three percent of food panties have volunteers; all volunteer staffs run 69 percent of these organizations.

Plant A Row for the Hungry
The Garden Writers Association started Plant A Row for the Hungry in 1994. The purpose of PAR is to encourage community gardeners to donate their surplus food and help feed America’s hungry.

The concept is simple, a gardener plants an extra row of vegetables, herbs or fruit then donates the extra to their local food bank or soup kitchen. It is estimated that for every one-pound of food donated four meals are made.

Franklin Park Conservatory
The Franklin Park Conservatory, built in 1895, is set on 88 acres of land in Columbus, Ohio. The Conservatory is a collection of botanical greenhouses and outdoor display gardens. Plant exhibitions and educational workshops are offered yearlong to the community.

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