SPRING IS A GENEROUS season. In the garden, warmer days and sufficient moisture encourage seedlings and blossoming fruit trees, which in the weeks and months ahead will produce loads of fresh, healthy food. More often than not, more than we will consume; I’m sure I’m not the only one to plant more than my appetite or kitchen inclinations will support.
It feels good to plant unstintingly and optimistically, but decidedly less so when healthy produce is wasting in the garden. Especially when people are hungry and challenged with food security. Fortunately, gardeners are as generous as the plots they tend.
Most regional food banks accept fresh produce from home gardeners provided it’s washed and ready to distribute. Judi Yazzolino, development director with the West Seattle Food Bank, says, “We love to get fresh produce during the growing season because our clients love it.”
Seattle is cultivating a community of gardeners who are growing food for those in need.
Fifty-four P-Patch gardens have gleaning programs or designated “giving garden” plots. Kenya Fredie, a supervisor with the P-Patch Community Garden Program, says gardeners donated more than 37,300 pounds of produce in 2019. In addition to donating produce to food banks and feeding programs throughout the city, P-Patch Community Gardens provide growing space and resources in multiple languages for people who want to grow their own food.
Register your fruit trees with City Fruit (cityfruit.org), and they’ll help you tend, harvest and distribute excess fruit to meal programs, food banks and community organizations throughout Seattle. Even if you can’t snag a spot on their full-service harvest calendar, you can request U-pick harvest boxes. Then collect the fruit, fill the box and schedule a time for City Fruit to pick up your donation. City Fruit also offers classes, resource guides and paid services to help steward and preserve Seattle’s fruit tree canopy.
Northwest Harvest, a nonprofit organization working to end hunger in Washington, developed Growing Connections, a “Fresh-to-Food Program” online initiative with a goal of connecting growers with hunger-relief agencies. Home gardeners, community gardens and farmers post their donations to the Growing Connections website (growingconnections.org), where volunteers and staff from participating food programs can browse listings in their area. Once a listing is “claimed,” pickup location and details are automatically communicated, empowering food programs to develop relationships with local growers and provide fresh produce to their clients.
Seattle’s Giving Garden Network (sggn.org) is dedicated to supporting individuals and gardens committed to growing and donating food to those in need. Volunteers of all ages sow seeds, distribute starts, tend gardens, harvest produce and deliver the food where it is needed. In February, SGGN distributed 10,000 donated seed packets to food banks, Northwest Harvest, low-income gardeners and gardeners who are growing food for others who struggle to feed themselves and their families. SGGN point person Dianne Garcia emphasizes that the organization is but one part of a greater whole, with collaborators from across a spectrum of official organizers and generous volunteers dedicated to addressing hunger in our region.
American environmental activist, farmer and poet Wendell Berry observed, “The Earth is what we all have in common.” April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. This year, in the name of supporting community on this blue-green planet, why not plant for plenty and make a plan for sharing with others?