August 20, 2011 in Washington Voices

Plant a Row program boosting food banks

Pat Munts
 
Keith Burgeson photo

The owners of High Country Orchards in Green Bluff glean Bing cherries.
(Full-size photo)

Hope is something Keith Burgeson has a lot of right now. As coordinator for Second Harvest’s Plant a Row for the Hungry program he is working hard to gather donations of fresh garden produce from local gardens and farms to fill local food banks.

Even with the cooler weather Burgeson’s hope is well-founded. So far this year donations are up nearly ninefold to 16,471 pounds. That’s a lot of beans, squash and cucumbers, but it is nowhere near what local food banks need to fill shelves that empty as quickly as they are filled. What comes in is quickly snapped up.

While Second Harvest gets the bulk of its fresh food through large networks, it takes scarce resources. Donations of even a pound from local gardens and farms means Second Harvest can use those resources elsewhere. Even better, locally donated produce is a lot fresher.

Burgeson has expanded the scope of the Plant a Row program this year. The program is now gleaning produce and fruit from local farms. “We picked 25 buckets of green beans in a couple of hours at AC Star Farms a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “If someone has enough produce or fruit to keep five to six volunteers busy for two to three hours, we can pick it.”

In addition, Plant a Row has teamed with Spokane Rotary West to start the Home Fruit Harvest Program to harvest backyard trees. People with apple, plum and pear trees can register their trees with Second Harvest and receive information about caring for and harvesting their trees. Fruit needs to be free of blemishes.

Produce and unblemished fruit can be taken to your local food bank or to Second Harvest’s main warehouse at 1234 E. Front St. You can access a list of food banks at the Second Harvest website, www.2-harvest.org/2-harvest, under the “get help” section at the bottom of the webpage.

All vegetables or fruit are welcomed but sturdy vegetables and fruits that are commonly available in the grocery store are best. Fragile greens and herbs need to be delivered close to the day the neighborhood food bank is serving clients. Ask for a donation receipt. You can take $1.50 a pound as a federal tax donation, while the Plant a Row committee gets to brag about how great this community is when the chips are down.

Although home canned food cannot be donated to food banks, the Plant a Row program wants to encourage people to preserve their harvests. On Aug. 27 there will be a free workshop on preserving food for home use. Topics will include water bath and pressure canning, freezing, dehydration and pickling. The workshop will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the SpokAnimal Event Center, 710 N. Napa St. in Spokane. Space is limited and people are encouraged to preregister at proverbs31practicalhelps. weebly.com.

Pat Munts is a Master Gardener who has gardened the same acre in Spokane Valley for 30 years. She can be reached by email at pat@inlandnwgardening.com


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