Have you visited a local food pantry lately? As unemployment increases, food pantries and food banks are suffering from severe food shortages for redistribution to the poor. Food pantries are non profit agencies that rely on donations from the community. When times are tough, food pantries often find themselves without enough food to give to destitute families.
You can help a local food pantry by donating vegetables from your garden. Growing vegetables for a food pantry is easy to do, low in cost, and is a rewarding experience for your entire family. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Adopt a food pantry.
Many neighborhood churches have small on site food pantries for direct distribution to the needy of the community. A logical food pantry to adopt is the one in your church, a neighboring church (if you don’t belong to one), or the local Salvation Army. These pantries usually have refrigerators to put perishable vegetables in cold storage and are well equipped to distribute fresh produce.
Discuss vegetable needs.
Once a pantry has been adopted, the next phase is to discuss crop needs. The pantry director can tell you what type of vegetables work for their particular agency. To use our church as an example, our pantry distributes to Hispanic families, Bosnian refugees, and Somalian refugees. The food crops our family grows in the yard for the pantry include familiar food staples to these three ethnic groups.
Checking with the pantry first before buying seed packets ensures that you are growing the right type of vegetables for the people who visit that particular agency.
Find a place in the yard for crops.
No matter how small a yard you may have, it’s always possible to grow food for a food pantry. I plant food pantry crops in amongst the flower beds and on our two porch roofs.
Vegetables to plant for the food pantry.
So what crops do well for distribution to the needy? Root crops such as potatoes, beets, onions, and carrots are fantastic choices of vegetables that a pantry can store for up to a month. Vining vegetables such as squashes (summer and winter varieties) are also popular, along with bush vegetables such as peppers, Roma tomatoes, and cabbage. What does NOT seem to work are vegetables that require refrigeration, have a short shelf life, or soft squishy skins. Again, the pantry director can best advise you as to what will work for his specific pantry.
Once the garden has been planned, the final step is to get the entire family involved in the project. Family gardening for distribution to the poor of your community is a great family community service project that not only teaches the kids gardening skills, but also the importance of stewardship.