As the world faces the challenges of COVID-19, the fear of diminishing access to fresh food and produce grows nationwide. The greater Philadelphia area ranks in the top 10 U.S. cities with the highest number of food insecure residents, with more than 12% of the population in our region before the pandemic. Here in Philadelphia County, the number is higher than the national average, with an estimated 302,685 people living with food insecurity and increasing.
This growing season, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) is working with partners throughout the region to mobilize thousands of people to increase their garden’s food production, and share the harvest with their families, their communities, and local food pantries by pledging their participation in Harvest 2020. PHS currently works with more than 300,000 gardeners, volunteers, and partners to garden and improve the health and wellbeing of our region. The organization’s long history of supporting community gardeners in their efforts to strengthen their neighborhoods includes the PHS City Harvest program where 129 garden and production sites are actively growing and sharing food with their neighbors and with local food cupboards. Given the pressing needs today, the Harvest 2020 initiative ramps up PHS’s efforts to encourage more home gardeners to take action.
“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.”
The time is now to grow together to help feed our families and our neighbors by pledging to help in multiple ways: as a grower (growing food for themselves and their family); as a sharer (sharing produce grown with neighbors and local food banks); and as a donor (supporting Harvest 2020 through a monetary donation). In its first two weeks, 560 new enrollees have already committed to join the Harvest 2020 food movement – 114 of whom are committing to all three actions of growing and sharing food and donate funds. This is in addition to the hundreds of gardeners that are impacting this effort through PHS’s City Harvest program.
“COVID-19 has amplified the region’s need to provide fresh and healthy food to ourselves and our neighbors,” says Julianne Schrader Ortega, PHS Chief of Healthy Neighborhoods. “PHS already works with gardeners, volunteers, and partner organizations to advance the health and well-being of our region. We feel Harvest 2020 will play a vital role in people’s lives this growing season.”
To support the initiative, PHS is offering free online programs on growing food to those who register. These GROWinars will include topics such as soil health, starting a food garden, growing peas, and gardening with children. The PHS Gardener’s Blog as well as the PHS McLean Library’s Ask PHS are also wonderful resources to get started growing food.
As part of the Harvest 2020 initiative, PHS is:
• Equipping local gardeners with online education resources on food growing and harvesting, including the PHS Blog, GROWinars, and ASK PHS.
• Connecting gardeners to local retailers and nurseries who are offering home delivery, no-contact pick-up, and online ordering.
• Connecting gardeners to each other for support and mentoring through the PHS Home Gardening Facebook page.
• Partnering with community-based nonprofits to provide gardening supplies and education to those living in underserved communities.
• Using our network of distribution agencies to collect and share produce to local food banks.