In these trying economic times, many of us wonder if we as individuals can make a difference in the challenge. After all, each of us is just a single person with average resources.
Well, guess what? That couldn’t be further from the truth, and I have a desk full of Plant a Row for the Hungry donation slips to prove it. Thank you, Spokane, once again for putting 35,673 pounds of garden fresh produce into the hands of Spokane’s hungry. Because each pound represents four servings, that represents 142,692 servings of produce to families who can’t afford them on lean budgets.
Donations came in all sizes. The Northwood Middle School’s seventh- and eighth-graders brought in 3,320 pounds of produce from their Loon Lake garden. The gardeners at churches like the Veradale United Church of Christ and Colbert Presbyterian Church grew 2,138 and 529 pounds, respectively, in their church gardens. Individuals like Steve Melville and Lois Hattenburg dropped off 629 and 151 pounds, respectively, through the growing season to the Mead Food Bank. Many others were signed simply “anonymous” and were for just a few pounds.
Regardless of the size of the donation, every bit of the produce disappeared quickly from the food bank shelves on distribution day; often before everyone made it through the lines.
Second Harvest Inland Northwest says that demand for food has risen sharply this year, up 30 percent in some cases. While demand is up, donations are down as their regular donors tighten their own belts. Fuel costs have made it difficult to bring food into the warehouse.
“We are spending $5,000 a month in diesel fuel,” said Jason Clark, director of Second Harvest Inland Northwest. “That’s money that’s not going into food.” Clark doesn’t see any reduction in demand anytime soon.
So thank you again, Spokane, for your generosity. Because the need isn’t going away, let’s start planning for more gardens next year. Over the winter gather your friends and neighbors or church, school and civic groups and build a community of folks who are willing to simply plant an extra row in an existing garden and dedicate it to Plant a Row and the food banks.
If you have a really ambitious group, put in a whole garden dedicated to relieving hunger. All it takes is a sunny, flat spot with good soil and access to water.
Don’t know how to garden? There will be several opportunities around Spokane to learn. The WSU Spokane County Master Gardeners and community garden groups will be scheduling classes in the spring. Check the Master Gardener Web site, www.spokanecounty.wsu .edu/Spokane/eastside/, for their schedule after the beginning of the year. I will also post other classes on my Web site, www.inlandnwgardening.com, and in this column.