By Melissa O'Brien
Now in its second year, PHS’s Harvest initiative has once again filled local food banks with close to 20,000 pounds of produce donated by more than 4,000 participants. This initiative also raised $30,000 for education and training via a variety of PHS Harvest donors, including PHS members, local gardeners, corporations, and other groups.
Launched in 2020 as a response to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, PHS Harvest mobilizes thousands of gardeners to plant and share their products to combat food insecurity in the Greater Philadelphia region. According to data from Feeding America, 14.4% of Philadelphia households are considered food insecure or lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. PHS Harvest helps hundreds of families gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as learn how to grow crops on their own for the future.
"This initiative illustrated the power of collaboration," says Sue Wyndham, director of programs at the Delaware Center for Horticulture. "The pounds of fresh produce made available to those who needed it most has incredible value in promoting health and fighting hunger on an individual basis, and it also helps raise public awareness about food insecurity issues that exist within our own communities and neighborhoods."
Click on the video below to take a look at the 2021 season and hear from local growing teams about their PHS Harvest experience.
The Kennett Middle School Giving Garden is a school and community-supported gardening program located in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. This year, KMS Giving Garden was one of the top three Harvest growing teams — donating 1,714 pounds of produce.
“We offer students at Kennett Middle School a place to learn about gardening and food, but it's also a place where they can get hands-on experience,” says Garden Manager Pattie Mancuso. “Gardening at KMS allows students to have a direct impact on hunger in their community because most of the food we grow in our garden is donated to local organizations including Kennett Area Community Service and The Chester County Food Bank.”
Through her membership with PHS, Pattie became aware of the Harvest initiative and decided to get involved. Pattie says:
“We're working very hard to help lighten the burden of food insecurity in our local community, and we know that tracking our donations through the PHS Harvest initiative helps draw attention to that struggle in the Greater Philadelphia Area and know that we're making a difference. In 2020 and again in 2021, the Kennett Middle School Giving Garden produced more than 1700 pounds of food — but that's just a drop in the bucket when you see how many pounds of food are being grown and tracked through Harvest.”
The Spring Gardens is an urban community garden located in Spring Garden, Philadelphia. This year, they donated an impressive 2,579 pounds of produce to local food banks through PHS Harvest.
“We are big supporters of PHS, so when we saw that they were doing this program, we knew we wanted to participate,” says Anne Cook, co-chair of City Harvest for the garden. The Spring Gardens team already helps families grow food and flowers for themselves and for donation, so participating in Harvest was a natural next step. “We were especially excited about the leaderboard and the prospect of a little friendly competition,” she says.
Overall, it was a great season for The Spring Gardens growers. “We produced more food than ever to help combat food insecurity, and we had fun doing it,” says Anne.
Longwood Gardens is a botanical garden located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. This year, their team donated an impressive 3,111 pounds of produce through PHS Harvest.
Longwood Gardens joined PHS Harvest by donating fruits and vegetables grown in their edible display gardens to their local food pantry at Kennett Area Community Services (KACS). “We got involved during the pandemic when community need was on the rise and delivered fresh produce on a weekly basis,” says Alexandra Correia, a horticulturist at Longwood Gardens who leads the growing for Harvest.
Alexandra says this program has provided a way for Longwood Gardens to enrich its connection to the local community and have a positive impact on the fight against food insecurity. “This experience has not only helped us engage more deeply with our community and help those in need, but it has also benefitted us horticulturally by giving us the chance to experiment with crops that are culturally important to our community recipients that we might not have otherwise grown.”
PHS is dedicated to promoting the use of horticulture to advance the health and well-being of the Greater Philadelphia region all year long. Harvest is one of the many ways PHS uses horticulture to increase access to fresh food, healthy living environments, deep social connections, and economic opportunities.