By Melissa O'Brien
Since opening in 2020, the PHS Pop Up Garden at Manayunk has served as an outdoor bar, family-friendly restaurant, and produce garden space for the local community. Throughout the space, there is symbolism and signage representing all the programs PHS facilitates to advance the health and well-being of the Greater Philadelphia region: trees to highlight the work PHS does to plant and care for more trees in areas that need them most, rain barrels representing the Rain Check program to decrease stormwater runoff, and fencing just like the kind used to transform vacant lots throughout the city.
Within the Pop Up Garden, there are also eight garden beds dedicated to food gardening, showcasing the power of community gardens. Each season, fresh produce is grown using vegetable starts from PHS’s City Harvest program. The fresh produce is then harvested and donated to a local food pantry at the North Light Community Center in Manayunk. This season, 285 pounds of produce was donated to North Light from the PHS Pop Up Garden at Manayunk.
Learn more about PHS’s partnership with North Light Community Center, the recipients who benefit from the food donations, and the impact it has on the community.
PHS has been donating produce to the food pantry at North Light Community Center in Manayunk since opening in 2020. North Light offers emergency assistance, children’s services, and teen services to its neighbors in Philadelphia. Every week, the food pantry is open on Mondays and Fridays at 10:30 am to supply a wide variety of fresh foods and grocery items to food-insecure households.
Depending on the season and how fast the food is growing, PHS’s Manager of Urban Activation Keren Kapoano regularly harvests produce from the Pop Up Garden at Manayunk to deliver to the food pantry at North Light. “I go and harvest it the day that they're giving out the food, so in terms of really local, fresh, healthy food with all the nutrients still intact – it's pretty cool,” says Keren. Annie Schuster, who oversees development and communications for North Light, says PHS’s donations are crucial since fresh fruits and vegetables are among the hardest items to get for the pantry.
The North Light food pantry is open to walk-ins and delivers food to approximately 50 households every week. In 2021 when the pandemic was affecting many lives, the food pantry provided fresh food and grocery items to approximately 500 people. Items may change year to year depending on weather and availability, but usually include items such as lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, parsley, bok choy, cabbage, eggplants, peppers, okra, and melons. “People are excited to get fresh fruits and new vegetables to cook with,” says Annie from North Light Community Center. “A lot of people are unable to go in person, so they get the produce delivered to them, and there is one woman who calls every week to say how thankful she is for the greens!”
This past season, Keren noticed that the hot peppers were a particular fan favorite out of the produce deliveries. She says, “In the future, I would love to meet with the people who are receiving this produce and find out what vegetables they prefer to see and if they want to learn how to prepare some of the food.” The goal for the 2023 growing season is to become even more collaborative with the community and continue to grow as much produce as possible to provide to the pantry.