Most gardeners, such as Jeff Lowenfels, a garden writer from Anchorage, Alaska, are generous people who enjoy sharing the bounty of their garden with others.
Lowenfels began the Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) program by asking gardeners to plant an extra row of beans in their garden for an Anchorage soup kitchen.
From there the idea spread and PAR, run by the Garden Writers Association now has thousands of volunteers.
Why You Should Plant A Row For The Hungry
Hunger is on the rise!
The numbers of hungry people increase every year, necessitating the need for more food at soup kitchens and food pantries.
Local food pantries and soup kitchens need fresh produce now more than ever before.
Research shows that hundreds of hungry people are turned away from local soup kitchens and food pantries each year because of a lack of resources.
This is where gardeners can make a difference by getting involved with the grassroots efforts of PAR.
As you begin to plan your vegetable garden this year, plant a few extra rows of vegetables or herbs to donate.
Contact the person in charge of the local food pantry or soup kitchen in your area and ask them what they have the greatest need for.
This will help you decide what to plant and in what amounts.
Also ask what the requirements for donating are as some need to know in advance if you plan to donate a large quantity of fresh produce.
Finding A Local Food Pantry Or Soup Kitchen Is Easy!
Locating the soup kitchens and food pantries in your area is simple.
Look in the yellow pages under social services.
Although the listing may not specify if they have a food pantry or soup kitchen, a few inquiring phone calls to the agencies listed can help you find out about the ones in your area.
Ask the person you speak to for the phone numbers of the facilities in your area.
Then call them, ask to speak to the person in charge and find out what is needed.
Get Others Involved In Your Plant A Row For The Hungry Efforts
Try to find a group of volunteers in your area such as the local Master Gardeners so you can create a local network of people who are willing to help grow, harvest or deliver the food that is grown.
If you have a local prison in your area, contact them to see if they are interested in participating.
I was able to get 16 prisons throughout Indiana to agree to grow a garden and donate the produce as long as I provided the seeds via mail.
Once you know who is on board, then it is time to plan your campaign.
A free PAR workbook and press kit is available to anyone beginning a campaign by simply calling the PAR headquarters at 1-877-492-2727 and requesting it.
Be ready to kick your campaign into gear at with the start of the planting season.
Don’t Forget The Media!
Publicity is important so get the local media involved.
There may be other gardeners’ in your area who find out about your campaign and want to get involved.
Ask local nurseries or garden centers if you can hand out pamphlets or simply put some on their counter for customers to pick up.
Later as the harvest season approaches, begin to organize gleaning opportunities on fields other than your own.
Many times produce is left in the fields, especially with crops like tomatoes or potatoes.
Keep in touch with local food pantries and soup kitchens to see how their stocks are tallying up and what their current needs are.
Wrap Your PAR Campaign Up With A Harvest Party!
Finally wrap up the season with a harvest party and again invite the media.
Thank everyone who has been involved, announce the amount of produce that was donated locally and announce plans for next year’s campaign.
The future is in our hands.
Let’s make a difference now.
Let’s teach others how to be self-sufficient and by doing so decrease the numbers of the hungry.