By Marion McParland
In the Greater Philadelphia region, 1 in 5 people are considered “food insecure,” meaning access to fresh, healthy food is restricted on an ongoing basis. Fresh food may not always be accessible due to geography, safety concerns, or financial situation. Food insecure communities are relying more than ever on hunger relief organizations.
In an effort to help increase self-sufficiency and lower food insecurity across the region this growing season, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is working to mobilize thousands of people to start a food garden, increase their garden’s food production, and share the harvest with their families, their communities, and local food pantries. By pledging their participation in PHS’s initiative called Harvest 2020, home gardeners from beginners to experienced are invited to participate in this worthy cause.
“For decades, many of our neighbors in Philadelphia have struggled to access enough food to live healthy, active lives,” says Matt Rader, PHS President. “PHS is able to bring together our community to garden for the greater good in partnership with many local hunger relief agencies and community partners to provide the backbone for the Harvest 2020 initiative.”
No matter the size of the garden — a small backyard space or containers, or a large, public garden — everyone is encouraged to make a pledge: as a grower (growing food for themselves); as a sharer (sharing produce grown with neighbors and food banks); and as a donor (supporting Harvest 2020 through monetary donations).
To support the initiative, PHS is offering free online programs on growing food. These GROWinars include topics such as starting a food garden, soil health, growing peas, and gardening with children. The PHS Gardener’s Blog is also a wonderful resource to get started growing food.
Long-time PHS partner Chanticleer in Wayne, PA, became the first public garden to officially join the Harvest 2020 initiative in May.
Led by Executive Director and Head Gardener Bill Thomas, Chanticleer has grown vegetables in a 1,600-foot stand-alone Vegetable Garden for years. Local harvest recipients include nearby Narberth Food Bank and others.
This year, when it was time to start planting annuals, Chanticleer staff decided to turn more space into growing gardens to help produce fresh food for local neighbors in need. “In addition to the Vegetable Garden, we converted the 2,500-square foot Cut-Flower Garden into full vegetable production,” says David Mattern, Chanticleer Horticulturist. Usually home to tulips and snap dragons, the garden is now filled with spring crops including lettuces, kales, radishes, spinach, and endives.
The timing was perfect for Chanticleer to pledge to grow and share as part of PHS’s initiative. “Harvest 2020 has helped our efforts to connect our bounty with food banks,” says Mattern. “We were looking for more places to donate our fresh produce, and PHS’s network of food pantries through Harvest 2020 was a natural partnership.”
The Harvest 2020 goal of raising thousands of pounds of produce this season is well underway with gardens like Chanticleer and thousands of regional gardeners doing their part to reduce food insecurity.