Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Neighbors Helping Neighbors....

Frequent riders will know that this garden issue has generated a lot of discussion, both on the bus and the Jackehammer.

I didn't get a paper Monday morning while I was down at the lake so I didn't see the story until this morning.

While there is nothing more dated than yesterday's newspaper, I read this article by Chad Livengood and wanted to share it with the bus riders.

No government interference, no zoning law changes, no variances, no permits, no preaching, no politics; just neighbors helping neighbors.

Program gets food from garden to tables
Volunteers collect donated produce for food pantries.
Chad Livengood • News-Leader • August 3, 2009

Last summer, Springfield Ad Club members and local master gardeners joined a national effort to plant an extra row of vegetables in their gardens at home to donate to the poor.

While being an idealistic way to combat local hunger, the program had one major snag: getting the fresh produce from people's gardens to the dinner tables of the needy.

"You're not going to drive across town to deliver one cucumber and two squash," says Vicki Trippe, an avid gardener from Springfield.

In response to the inconvenience, Trippe and members of the Greene County Democratic Party organized a network of volunteers this spring to use their homes as drop-off points for fresh produce in neighborhoods across Springfield.

Each volunteer has a box on their front porch for neighbors to drop off their extra produce.

Those volunteers then deliver the fresh produce in large quantities throughout the week to their nearest food pantry, Ozarks Food Harvest, The Kitchen's food warehouse at 421 E. Blaine St. or Bill's Place, a drop-in center for the homeless on Commercial Street.

The effort is called Harvest on Wheels, and organizers say it's become an immediate success, generating more than 2,600 pounds of fresh produce in June and July for The Kitchen's food pantry and soup kitchen alone.

Convenient, "energy efficient"
By centralizing the delivery of the locally grown food, it's making the Ad Club and master gardeners' Ozarks Harvesting Hope initiative more efficient and convenient for people who have extra produce to donate but don't have time to take it to a food pantry, Trippe said.

"It's trying to be energy efficient and it's trying to help people who need food," said Trippe, who coordinates the neighborhood volunteer network.

Harvest on Wheels also has formed partnerships with farmers at the Battlefield Mall farmers market. Each Saturday, a team of volunteers goes to the mall parking lot and solicits donations from farmers who have leftover produce from the week's sales.

"They're wanting us to pick up excess so it doesn't go to waste," said Linda Bossi of Springfield, who coordinates the farmers market pick-up each Saturday. "I've been so amazed at the giving spirit."

Farmers have always been willing to donate their extra food but have had no way in the past of getting it to food pantries in an efficient manner. Harvest on Wheels has streamlined the donation process, Bossi said.

Bossi said organizers would like to expand the program to other farmers markets outside of Springfield and in surrounding counties in southwest Missouri.

Churches reach out
At the First Unitarian Universalist Church on East Battlefield Road, the congregation has turned up a section of the church's lawn this year to create a "Victory Garden," with the intent of growing most of the produce to feed Springfield's less fortunate citizens.

"It came as a prompt from the Obama administration to plant a row for the hungry with the economy down and so forth," said Mike Brown of Springfield, who tends a small plot of tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, squash and beets.

Other members of the environmentally aware and service-oriented church have planted beans, zucchini, watermelon, butternut squash, banana peppers and potatoes, Brown said.

Brown and his wife, Claudia, drop off their produce a couple of times a week in a container on Trippe's front porch.

"We're just having fun with it, and every little bit helps," Mike Brown said.

Trippe also has used her church, Community Christian, as a central drop-off point for congregation members to bring their fresh vegetables and fruit each Sunday. Organizers would like to get more churches involved.

Plentiful produce
Harvest on Wheels has generated more fresh produce for The Kitchen and its Missouri Hotel residents than ever before, said Sarah McCullem, community development coordinator at The Kitchen.

In the past, local farmers have donated produce, "but nothing like the volume that we've seen this year," McCullem said.

Having fresh produce on hand has given Missouri Hotel residents a chance to learn more about healthy eating, McCullem said.

"They're learning how to utilize that produce," she said.

Trippe, a local Democratic activist, said the Greene County Democratic Party organized Harvest on Wheels as a community service project that can cross party lines. Organizers think the neighborhood collection boxes could be used to collect nonperishable canned food and toiletries during the non-growing months of the year.

"It doesn't have to be produce. It can be anything anyone wants to give. They can always use toilet paper and paper towels," Trippe said of The Kitchen.

Organizers attribute the immediate success of Harvest on Wheels to a growing number of Americans trying to adopt more self-sustaining lifestyles during one of the worst economic recessions in decades.

"This is a movement we desperately need, in my opinion," said Linda Palmisano, a member of the Ad Club's board of directors. "From the perspective of community building, I feel it's real important for people to feed each other at the local level."

1 comment:

Jackie Melton said...

That was a great article, bus.

Feeding the hungry, most certainly, should cross all party lines. :)