Starter plant project yielding fresh produce for participating agencies

July 15, 2020

What started as a trial – the Food Bank of Delaware providing vegetable starter plants to community partner agencies – is obviously a success, even this early in the growing season. The Food Bank’s Community Farm Manager Kyle Brolis said kale, chard, chives, oregano, parsley, cabbage, and watermelon seedlings were provided to partner agencies in New Castle and Kent counties as an experiment. He’s keeping data to track results.

The harvest has begun! “Thank you very much for the starter plants! We truly appreciate it and believe it or not, our food service manager made a salad today [July 9] for the residents from the garden,” reported Sojourners’ Place Executive Director Robyn Beck-Gott. “The residents tend to the garden and for many, this is therapeutic for them.”

Sojourners’ Place in Wilmington provides housing and supportive services to homeless woman and men, as it has for the past 30 years.

Sojourner’s Place

Calvary Church in Dover had a different approach. The church received 150 plants, and Benevolence Director Margaret Young said the plants were distributed to 17 people from the congregation, people who responded to a notice about the project in the church bulletin.

In a variation of the Plant A Row concept, gardeners were encouraged to accept plants as a family project and return some of the produce to the church’s emergency food pantry.

“With social distancing, we wanted to give people something for kids to do, and also make it easy. It’s Biblical to give back. God gives us what we really need,” Young said.

At Rose Hill Community Center, plants went into the garden and produce will be shared with community members who have engaged in a community container garden class.

Shepherd Garden

The plants became part of a youth garden and community raised-bed gardens at Neighborhood House, also in Wilmington.

Linda Ulmanis from Lutheran Community Services said the plants her agency received were divided between two gardens: The Shepherd’s Garden consists of seven 4 by 16-foot raised beds and another 30 raised beds, 4 by 8-feet, for the community garden.

Ulmanis explained that the church tends seven beds, and the produce goes to St. Stephen’s Lutheran Food Pantry. As for the community beds, gardeners were asked to return 10 percent of their yield to the panty. “They give so much more,” she said.

There have been some unexpected surprises: LCS received 200 squash plants from the Food Bank. The plants were planted on May 1, and late frost set them back – at first. “I’m happy to say the garden is full of squash and thriving. We have delivered over 350 pounds of squash so far to the pantry. We love it, and so do the clients,” she said.

Other gardening partners are Great Commission Outreach, Latin American Community Center, Little Sisters of the Poor, and the Food Bank’s Healthy Pantry Center.

“We’re trying this out this year to see how we can be more impactful. I’m positive it will encourage a tradition with prospects for the future,” Brolis said.

The Food Bank of Delaware is participating

in Harvest 2020 in partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Delaware Center for Horticulture.  Visit www.fbd. Org/produce for more information about dropping off produce donations to the Food Bank’s warehouse in Newark (222 Lake Drive) or Milford (1040 Mattlind Way), Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. or one of our statewide drop-off locations.

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