Picture the tightest budget month in your own particular household. Is it December, when you’re buying gifts? Is it the month when it seems like every member of your family has a birthday? Is it spring, when you’re maybe attending weddings, or visiting relatives now that the roads aren’t don’t as closely resemble skating rinks?
Well, picture that tight month stretching out over months and months – or, indeed, years. When the budget is tight, things start to get cut out. Often fresh fruits and veggies are the first to go for a family in need of food, period. 9 out of 10 of us don’t get enough fresh produce anyway – multiply that problem for a household facing a tough time.
Enter the Hunger Free ND Garden program. This program, as presented by the ND Dept of Agriculture and one of their partners, Lutheran Social Services program the Great Plains Food bank today, February 3rd, at the Dakota Grown Local Foods Conference, aims to connect local farmers, large and small, with area food pantries, with a very impressive goal – to get 500,000 lbs of fresh fruits and vegetables into the hands of those who need them, and helping to eradicate area hunger.
1 in 11 people don’t get enough to eat in our great state, and 40% of those are children. This program seeks to involve people on all levels – from the backyard hobbyist like myself, to a CSA farm, to a large scale operation.
During this session, I was impressed with the sharing the group did at the end of our time together. One man from the Wahpeton/Breckenridge area noted that their farmer’s market has started a program, Pounds for the Pantry. At the end of the market day, extra or unwanted produce is collected and then brought by a network of volunteers to the area food pantry. We broke into small groups to brainstorm problems and solutions – how can we get food to people? Could we each plant an extra row, or, in a small situation, one extra plant, that we can share?
My husband and I have often marveled at the output of a single plant. Plants – and here I’m going to reference the abundant zucchini, which, at high season, you can’t hardly GIVE away! – are meant to be shared. They are meant to feed people. This program seeks to connect that abundance to the people who need it most and can afford it least.
Consider making this program visible, through your network of friends, your church, your workplace, your extended family. The program has had success in its first two years, giving about 350,000 lbs to those in need, and has some heartwarming stories of how the abundance is collected. Take retired pastor Dave Faust, for instance. He planted 2 acres of squash, yielding over 60 thousand pounds. At age 76, harvesting it all himself was not an option. Help was enlisted in the local college population, who had the squash harvested in about 2 hours (and were entreated to go back out into the field and pull the weeds, too).
Check out more information about the Hunger Free North Dakota garden project, and share the abundance. Here is a brochure: