Community Garden Helps Food Pantries

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A growing line of 30 people waited patiently in the alley behind The Church for All People on Parsons Avenue for their chance to pick up fresh produce. Fifty-five-year-old Lynn Richards is disabled and lives by herself.

“Like I say I come here to get the vegetables,” Richards says.

“What kind of vegetables do you like?” says WOSU reporter Debbie Holmes.

“All kinds, tomatoes. It just varies what they have I mean you know. But I like pretty much everything.”

This year some church members planted their first community garden. Organizer, Margaret Madison brought a basket full of produce from the garden located several blocks away on Wager Street. In May, church members and neighbors built garden boxes and planted vegetables.

“Mostly this year we’ve had tomatoes, broccoli, peppers and we had some cabbage. And then next year we’ll have more boxes and have more space so it’ll be expanded as time goes on,” Madison says.

Shirley Chaffin who has visited the church pantry for about eight years enjoys the fresh vegetables.

“So that helps out a lot when I get produce, vegetables and things. What in particular do you like getting here? In produce? Oh, I like cabbage, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cucumbers, so you can make salads with it,” Chaffin says.

Food that could not be grown in the small gardens is hauled in on trucks. Church volunteers unloaded 10 pound bags of potatoes along with cabbage, cantaloupe and green beans, donated by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Jana Valliere is a regular volunteer.

“I enjoy helping the community. This is where I live,” Valliere says.

The Mid Ohio Food bank and food pantries have seen a rising number of people needing assistance over the last five years. The President of the Food Bank, Matt Habash, says this year’s demand so far is up four percent over last.

“To put it in perspective, we’re up over 40 percent over the last five years. So the good news is it’s not a double digit increase continually which we saw for many, many years, but, it’s still continuing to go up,” Habash says.

“One bag please, thank you. We don’t have that many potatoes,” says a volunteer.

Food pantries have been working hard to bring more fresh produce to city residents in need. Gardening coordinator with Scioto Ridge United Methodist Church in Hilliard, Stephanie Connor, often drops off extra produce from her church’s garden.

“We’re standing here right now looking at a very long line of people waiting for food from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank and also from Scioto Ridge and I do see a longer line or more need this year than there was in the past,” Connor says.

Connor admits the Hilliard area also has struggling residents who need help feeding their families. The Food Bank’s Habash says the need for food exists in other suburban areas like Dublin, Westerville and Reynoldsburg.

“We know it’s going to be bad for the next few years just because it’s going to take that long for people to recover. We’re seeing folks we’ve never seen before come to food pantries and it’s going to take a while for those folks to get back on their feet,” Habash says.

Habash says the food bank will continue to partner with farmers and community gardens to bring fresh food wherever the need exists.

Debbie Holmes, WOSU News.