In the Garden:
Middle South
September, 2005
Regional Report

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If you have extra produce in your garden, consider donating some to your local food shelf.

Sharing the Wealth

Emergency food shelves across the country are feeling the pinch right now. Many are reporting dangerously low inventories as stockpiles have been diverted to hurricane-stricken areas for the immediate relief. At a time when demand for their services is increasing, some food banks are reporting a startling decline in donations.

Undoubtably due to people's generous response to calls for help for hurricane victims, the decline is nonetheless ominous for local food banks and the people who depend on them. According to the Blue Ridge [Virginia] Area Food Bank Network's Web site (http://www.brafb.org), between September 1 and September 22, 2005, food donations fell 40 percent from the same period last year, and cash donations decreased by 34 percent.

Yet at the same time food shelf usage is increasing. The Blue Ridge Food Bank Network reports increased usage at all but one of its chapters this August compared to August, 2004. And the situation will likely get worse as rising fuel and food costs take a larger chunk of many people's already limited budgets.

Plus, many food shelves are serving not only their usual populations, but also Gulf Coast evacuees who have temporarily relocated. For example, more than 500 hundred Katrina victims have taken shelter with families and churches in Knoxville, Tennessee, and that community's food shelf is helping to feed these people.

The Central Virginia Food Bank has a simple plea: "Our shelves are empty. Please hold a food or fund drive to help feed disaster victims and others in need."

A Call to Gardeners
At the annual Garden Writers Association symposium a few weeks ago, organizers of the group's Plant a Row for the Hungry campaign appealed to gardeners to donate their extra produce to a local food shelf.

The Plant a Row concept is as simple as it sounds: Gardeners plant an extra row of fruits and vegetables, then donate this extra produce so it can be distributed to those in need in their communities. Although it's too late to plant an extra row this season, if you find yourself with a surplus of tomatoes, peppers, squash, greens, or other edibles, contact your local food pantry to see if they can distribute it.

If you don't know how to contact your food shelf, visit the America's Second Harvest Web site (http://www.secondharvest.org/), click on "Go Local," then on the "Zip Code & State Locator." America's Second Harvest is a national network of food banks that distributes food and grocery products to its member food banks and food rescue organizations. In addition to helping feed more than 23 million people each year, the organization also educates the public about hunger in America and advocates for public policies that help hungry Americans.

Much of the food available at food shelves is canned, boxed, or otherwise processed; while this provides important nutrition for clients, it doesn't address the importance of fresh produce in a healthful diet. By donating your extra produce, you'll not only improve the diets of recipients, you'll also show your support and caring for those in need.


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