Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
New England
September, 2005
Regional Report

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Share the harvest by donating extra food to your local food bank.

Donations From the Garden

As I look at the food my garden is still producing, I can't help but think about all the people who've lost their gardens along with their homes as a result of the recent hurricanes. At a time when they most need green space or growing plants or any type of restorative contact with nature to nurture them, so many are displaced, without a place to cook a meal let alone grow food for it.

Though we may be far removed from the devastation of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the scarcity of essentials such as food is evident even here in New England. A need this great is bound to have a trickle down effect. Local food banks around the country are feeling the pinch as food staples have been transferred to hard hit areas. We may never see any figures for the number of gardens that were destroyed in the hurricanes, but their loss compounds the problem.

We who still have soil to dig a shovel into, or a tree to sit beneath, or tomatoes to pick have an opportunity to help. As members of a group 7 million strong across the country, gardeners have a tremendous ability to make a difference. The Garden Writers Association of America has sent out an urgent plea to gardeners to donate any extra food from the garden to a local food shelf as part of the GWA Plant a Row for the Hungry initiative. This program encourages gardeners to plant an extra row of vegetables and donate the surplus. Last year more than 1.3 million pounds of food were donated, providing meals for more than 5.5 million people.

While it's too late in the season for gardeners in our region to start new plantings this year, your fall garden may still offer up tomatoes, peppers, squash, salad greens, carrots, etc., that would be welcomed at the local food shelf. Instead of canning or freezing extra tomatoes, or letting zucchini go to waste because you've had enough, you can pass them along to someone who needs them. Then next year you can get started early and plant an extra row or two to donate.

There are lots of other ways you can take an active role in helping people who have a shortage of food. Here's a sampling of national and international programs with local initiatives.

1. Get involved with World Food Day on October 16 by organizing or joining events in your area. Sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, this event is observed every year to help increase awareness, understanding, and action to alleviate hunger. (

2. Participate in Fast for a World Harvest Day on November 17, the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Sponsored by Oxfam, an international development and relief agency, this yearly event invites people to either skip a meal or fast for a day and donate what they would have spent on food to Oxfam. You can host a banquet or even get your company or local school involved. (

3. Visit the Second Harvest Web site for information about their programs and events and to search for the food bank nearest you. The largest charitable hunger relief organization in the country with more than 200 member food banks and food rescue organizations, Second Harvest has been sending food and monetary donations to the Gulf Coast ever since Katrina hit, and 100 percent of every dollar goes toward aid. (

4. Get involved in the Empty Bowls project -- started in a high school in Michigan in 1990 -- in which individuals create ceramic bowls and serve a simple meal of soup and bread to invited guests. Guests keep their bowls to remind them that there are always empty bowls in the world, in exchange for a donation of at least $10. The meal sponsors and/or guests choose a hunger-relief organization to receive the proceeds. (

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