Grow it Forward!

Growing Healthy Food for the Hungry

Junk food arriving at Foodbank
By Linda from Chicago, USA (New crops) [CC-BY-2.0
 via Wikimedia Commons

The "Grow it Forward!" Project is a grassroots effort to make healthy, organic food more available to the families in our communities needing it most. The project involves a simple, straightforward approach that nearly any gardener or grower can engage in, without becoming swamped with tasks unrelated to growing healthy food. 

As many of us know junk food is never in short supply, even at Foodbanks. Unfortunately healthy food often is. It is not uncommon to find out-dated produce, frozen foods and canned goods sent in as donations, much of which simply ends up in a dumpster. Some of the staple items which have long-term storage like rice or pasta are consistently safe for consumption, but nearly all the rest must be checked for shelf-life before they go to hungry families.

By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 
Specialist 3rd Class Maddelin Angebrand
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Volunteers checking for perished or past shelf-life food donations.
According to a recent study on hunger, 1 in 7 (49.1 million) people in the US is food insecure. Which means that 1 out of 7 people either go without food or need food assistance in some form. (Get more facts on hunger in the US here.) The cause for food insecurity of course is poverty and according to a US Census Bureau report the number of poor households has actually dropped slightly, from 15% to 14.5% in 2013.
The bad news is that middle income folks have not been able to pull out of the Great Recession economically. With income levels still 8% lower than in 2007. For many struggling to maintain a mortgage, food purchases going to local food banks go to the bottom of the monthly budget. So although there are still 45.3million remaining in poverty, much of the local resources reaching a foodbank is stuck in a recession.

Grow it Forward?    Yes, we can!

For those of us able to increase our own Food Security through home or community gardens, there is a simple, inexpensive way to address hunger locally.

  • Add some "Foodbank Crops" to your plans for the 2015 growing season.
 This might be done by adding a few more of your favorite vegetables into the garden and donating the surplus. Or you might add some container or bedding space to what you already have established.
  • Connect with a foodbank in your area
Let them know about your plans to donate your surplus harvest during the upcoming growing season. They will be very happy to hear you are going to Grow it Forward in 2015!
  • Promote your Grow it Forward Garden and the Grow it Forward Project by creating a sign or sticker and posting it near your garden. Click on the link below, download the printable file and use it to create your own signage or stickers.

    Get the Grow it Forward! Sign

Part of the ECP Foodbank Garden Strip, Tacoma WA.  Providing hundreds of pounds of organically raised
vegetables and herbs to hungry families each year.

Here is an example of a Grow it Forward Garden sponsored by the Tahoma Urban Agriculture Guild. It's known as the Eloise's Cooking Pot(ECP) Foodbank Garden. The ECP Garden plus garden surplus amounted to over 450 pounds of vegetables and herbs in 2014. And all of it went to hungry families in the community. Just as significant, the crops were healthy, organic and freshly harvested, unlike much of the standard food going to a foodbank.

Not sure what to grow? You might just add more of some of your favorite crops. For those on tight time schedules other alternatives may be long season types and perennials that require less attention. Another way to think about it is to consider crops which are costly and therefore less likely to be purchased at a store or found at a foodbank.
     Here's a list we came up with that suited the needs of Eloise's Cooking Pot Foodbank and our budget or time limitations.

Some Foodbank Crop Suggestions
  • Root Crops - Beets, Garlic, Radishes
  • Herbs - Chives, Thyme, Sage, Cilantro, Basil, Oregano, Mints, Parsley,
  • Warm Season types: Snow and Snap Peas, Pole Beans, Cherry Tomatoes

We will be adding more to this list soon. Please feel free to comment if you have some Foodbank Crop suggestions, as well. Also, we know some folks wish to post how much food their garden has donated on the Grow it Forward sign. This is a great way to show the community the benefits of Growing it Forward!  So we are working on a simple method for tracking your donations and will provide a downloadable Tracking Plan in January. (update below)

Here's the TUAG Food Crop Harvest Tracking Sheet 

  It's simple to use, here's how:
    1) Use a standard bathroom scale to weigh your produce, not digital.
    2) Hold each type of crop as you step on the scale and subtract your weight.
    3) Log the amount by crop in a monthly journal.
    4) Download the spreadsheet from Gdrive (above) into a spreadsheet program.
    5) Enter the amount by crop for each month onto the Food Crop Tracking Sheet.
(There is space for 24 different types of crops, some sample types have been added but you can edit these as you wish.

The spreadsheet is set up to provide annual totals (in pounds) by crop, monthly total harvest and grand total of your entire harvest for the year. An Herb Crop Tracking sheet is in the works and will be available shortly. It will be set up to provide "Fair Market Value" (FMV) rather than weight as measurable outcomes.

If you have any issues with the spreadsheet let us know, we are here to help. Also feel free to offer suggestions on how the Tracking Sheets could be improved!

The TUAG Blog Team

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