Plant a Row Lehigh Valley has concluded its first annual campaign to help home gardeners donate fruits, vegetables, and herbs to food-insecure families and individuals in Easton, Bethlehem, Allentown, and surrounding areas.
The latest data available from Second Harvest Food Bank shows that some 60,000 people in the Valley receive food assistance annually. Plant a Row Lehigh Valley asked home gardeners to set aside one row of their gardens to donate to these food-insecure individuals and families, and it also accepted any overflow produce. The program created nine donation collection points at stores, parks, and churches, where participants could drop off fruits and vegetables. Each week, volunteers with the program transported donated produce from the collection points to food pantries and meal centers around the Valley.
The first donations were accepted on June 12th, 2016, and by the end of the growing season, backyard gardeners had donated 3029 pounds of fresh produce. This was split between five different food assistance programs. The donations consisted of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including over 275 pounds of tomatoes, 215 pounds of squash, and 50 pounds of apples. In total, the donations were enough for families to provide a serving of nutritious fresh produce for over 12,100 meals.
The program was warmly received by food security leaders in the Lehigh Valley. “This is an idea that could be transformational to the Lehigh Valley and end food insecurity, while making us healthier and happier and more connected to our neighbors,” said Joyce Marin, Executive Director of RenewLV. “I was overwhelmed by the generosity of gardeners throughout the Lehigh Valley,” said Joseph Marlin, coordinator for Plant a Row Lehigh Valley, “and I was continually humbled by the dedication of our volunteers, who transported all that produce every week for eighteen weeks.”
Plant a Row Lehigh Valley is the local campaign of the national Plant a Row program, sponsored by Garden Writers Association. Since 1995, over 20 million pounds of produce providing over 80 million meals have been donated by American gardeners through this program.press release