Plant a Row for the Hungry Effort Takes Root

ImageThe 2008 planting season is upon us – pull out your hoes and spades and start that victory garden! Whether you are a seasoned gardener with a yard full of veggies, or you have a window with a few containers, donating some of your harvest to help folks in need have a fresh, local meal will make a difference.

 Are you looking to plant something new this year? There is a market for a more diverse selection of produce – beets, okra, parsnips, turnips, rhubarb and (of course) savory herbs! Tomatoes, potatoes, squash, onions, carrots, pepper, lettuce and zucchini are welcome, too.

‘Plant a Row for the Hungry’ (also known as PAR), has been a successful campaign in Bloomington since 2002. Last year alone 21,811 pounds of local produce were donated to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank, the agency that provides food to over 80 non-profit organizations in our community. Since it began in Bloomington, PAR has been the effort of the following community partners: Bloomingfoods, City of Bloomington Parks & Recreation, Hilltop Garden & Nature Center, Hoosier Hills Food Bank, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, and Worm’s Way.

“Fresh produce has always been something that we enjoy collecting and sharing with the many agencies we work with,” says Dan Taylor, director of Hoosier Hills Food Bank. “The ‘Plant a Row’ effort represents contributions from farmers’ market vendors, individuals and their gardens, and the Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard volunteer gardeners. Unfortunately, all of the local feeding programs have reported an increasing demand for food, and we expect these numbers to continue to grow as food prices climb. Anyone who is willing to donate their produce can directly help feed people in our community.”  

Taylor notes that 41% of the meals served by the Community Kitchen [link] go to children. Fresh produce ensures that their meals have a higher nutritional content (and more flavor) than if they are made only with the non-perishable foodstuffs that make up the majority of items at the food bank.

You can help! When harvest time arrives, pick those un-pickled peppers and bring them to any of the ‘Plant a Row’ drop-off locations:

• Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market – every Saturday from April through September, 8am-1pm. October through November, 9am-1pm, 401 N. Morton St., in the area next to City Hall known as Showers Common.

• The Tuesday Market – every Tuesday evening, June through September, 4-7pm.

6th & Madison, next to Bloomingfoods Near West, 316 W. 6th St., 812-333-7312.

• Wednesday Farmers’ Market ­– Mid-to-late May through October, 7am-noon. Bloomingfoods East Parking lot, 3220 E. 3rd St. 812-336-5400.

• Worm’s Way – open daily from10am-6pm, 7850 N. State Road 37, 812-876-6425.

• Hoosier Hills Food Bank, Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, 615 N. Fairview Ave., 812-334-8374.

If you have an extra large yield this year, you can also call the Food Bank to schedule a pick-up. You’ll find ‘Plant a Row’ brochures at participating locations, with more details.