One of the best things about deciding to add more fresh produce to pantry shelves is deciding how to obtain that produce. While farms and markets will bring in a large amount of pounds into the pantry, the pantry is limited to offering what is donated to their clients. If the clients desire tomatoes and they aren’t donated that week, even though they are in season, they are going to go home without fresh tomatoes. One way to remedy this problem is for the pantry to construct and tend to a produce garden.
Once the decision is made to construct the inaugural garden is made, the next step is to map out what should be grown in it. To see what should be grown, it is best to ask the clients for their input, not only will this ensure clients have more access to vegetables, but this information is extremely helpful when creating a boiler plate statement to potential funders to cover the cost.
After deciding which fruits and vegetables to grow, it is important to map out a plan of how the garden will be set up. This includes the size of the garden plot, whether or not to have raised beds, the height of the raised beds if choosing to use them, how the soil is drained, type of mulch, and finally soil type. All of these factors may affect whether or not the garden will grow. There are experts and resources out there that can help a novice gardener planner.
Nothing is worse than having a garden that is in full bloom and then the next morning a deer or rabbit ate everything that should have gone to someone in need. This is why the last thing that is important to a garden project is making sure there is a make shift fence to keep the critters out. These fences do not have to be costly or permanent but some simple polls and wrapped fencing should do the trick.
The best people to help with the task of creating an inaugural produce garden are volunteers who operate their own successful garden. They will be the ones who know which soil levels are golden, which mulch is best, whether to plant from seed, and how much drainage the garden will need. The more passionate the volunteer is about growing produce the more involved they will be in making sure it is successful.
Not everyone who helps construct the inaugural garden needs to be an expert in gardening. While it is important to have expert gardeners on site while constructing the garden, it is also important to have people to help with the physical labor for constructing and planting the garden. This will give the garden project a new sense of community buy in, without asking volunteers to sacrifice too much of their time.
Food for Others officially began feeding the hungry from its Merrifield site in 1995. Today food supply, storage and distribution activities are made possible by a network of active volunteers, supporting churches and organizations, grocery stores, farms, gardens, farmers markets, and retail food contributor in addition to the receiving community centers, soup kitchens, and food pantries who together are dedicated to feeding the hungry of Northern Virginia. Nine staff members are employed full time to handle operations at our warehouse. All officers and directors are volunteers who work without compensation. Volunteers staff the office and are responsible for program administration and fund raising.
Food for Others provides free food to those in need throughout Northern Virginia. We distribute food in 4 ways, through our emergency warehouse distributions, through our 17 neighborhood sites across Northern Virginia that occur on weeknights, through our 14 community partners, and through our weekend food program for children at 29 Fairfax County Schools. Across all programs we serve an average of 1,800 families per week. Currently, we are focusing on providing healthier foods to our clients because we know that poor nutrition can have lasting detrimental effects on our community.