Food Bank’s starter plant donations nourish bodies and souls

July 23, 2021

At the Food Bank of Delaware, we like to share more than food with our neighbors; we share opportunities to grow food by cultivating and nurturing plants that produce fresh vegetables. At our Newark facility, we’re quite proud of our farm and the bounty it produces. This summer, the farm is thriving and full of fresh vegetables for our farm stand, Community Supported Agriculture participants and Healthy Pantry Centers.

Early in the spring, we grew starter plants not only to plant on our own farm, but also to sell at our annual plant sale. After our public sale in May, Kyle, the Food Bank’s farm manager, took the agricultural component one step further: we shared leftover plants with some of our partner agencies.

For at least one of those agencies, Sojourners’ Place in Wilmington, those plants are already nourishing bodies and souls. Executive Director Robyn Beck-Gott shared photos of the lush, thriving plants that are now yielding tasty cherry tomatoes. The tidy garden also contains basil, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelon, and kale.

In addition to housing and meals, this agency provides supportive services, such as pre-employment counseling and budgeting. “We clear any wreckage on the way to secure safe and affordable housing,” she said.

The pandemic has impacted operations for the shelter.  “We had to change intake procedures,” explained Beck-Gott. These residents have all been vaccinated, but during the state of emergency, Sojourners’ Place – just like other businesses —  had to modify how they accommodated people in an enclosed space. Those changes, including additional cleaning supplies and plexiglass barriers in the dormitory areas, created additional expenses. So, the garden helps stretch the food budget as well!

And there are other benefits. “Five residents are responsible for the garden, but all are involved in the garden as a therapeutic activity. It’s wonderful; they get to see the fruits of their labor,” she said. And just like gardeners everywhere, they also savor the fresh vegetables. “Our community has really enjoyed the tomatoes, especially the cherry tomatoes. These vegetables complement our menu, and we are so appreciative of them. We pick the tomatoes, and the food service person makes a salad. They (the plants) are making a difference all the way around. It’s wonderful for our residents to see that, and I always walk back there to look at the garden. We put the plants to good use,” said Beck-Gott.

To learn more about the Food Bank Farm, please click here.

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