Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) was launched in 1995 as a public service program of the Garden Writers Association. Garden writers encouraged their readers/listeners to plant an extra row of produce each year and donate their surplus to local food banks, soup kitchens and service organizations to help feed America’s hungry. In 2002, the Garden Writers Association Foundation was established as an independent nonprofit to administer and expand Plant a Row. PAR provides focus, direction and support to volunteer committees that promote herb, vegetable and community gardening at the local level as well as coordinating with the local food collection systems and tracking the volume of donations being donated to food pantries.
Now, not only are individuals planting extra vegetables in their backyard gardens, but schools, churches, neighborhoods and city parks are also getting involved. Using plants and seeds donated from within the community, these gardeners are able to grow extra vegetables to donate to the food bank nearest them, or to Second Harvest, making use of their distribution system. In the first year, this simple grassroots solution saw donations of fresh fruits and vegetables exceeding 25,000 pounds. With further program development and education, the PAR program could double the pounds donated and expand the growing/donation season becoming a year-round source for fresh produce.
The Plant a Row program was introduced in the Tri-Cities in 2010 as part of the Harvest Against Hunger produce recovery effort. The program has been embraced by the community in many ways. Some of which have broadened the reach from its original conception.