I live in a food desert. The only places to purchase food within walking distance are convenience stores, fast food, and drug stores. I also live in what is considered the hood, the poor part of town, where the public housing projects are and most of the abandoned buildings reside. This is also the neighborhood that the city has targeted for “Urban Renewal” and has been trying to raze for years in an attempt to expand the hospital and student housing for Marshal University. This is the historically black neighborhood and still has many homeowners of color who live here. But this post is not about the politics of race but feel free to draw your own conclusions about Huntington.
This post is about food and how you can have an impact by providing access to fresh fruits and vegetables to hungry people where you live. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to help, just a little bit of your time.
1. Plant Fruit Trees
You can pick up a fruit tree for about $20 and plant it in your yard or in a public place in your community. If you want to get really industrious, you can plant an entire orchard for your neighborhood and the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation can help. They will provide the trees, the expertise, and the training.
Each year my neighbor plants a vegetable garden, most of my neighbors do but this particular neighbor plants his entire yard front and back with a vegetable garden. About 3 years ago he decided to plant fruit trees and instead of planting them in his yard he planted them in the grass between the sidewalk and the road, the public area. He wanted to provide fresh fruit to the neighborhood. It’s that simple.
2. Plant a Row for the Hungry
If you grow a vegetable garden you can just add an extra row and donate it to your local food pantry or shelter.
If you have a bumper crop like I did one year of zucchini and you have run out of friends and neighbors to give it to then take it down to your local food pantry or soup kitchen, they will love having fresh veggies. You can do this if you have an overabundance of fruit also.
3. Organize a Community Garden
Have an empty lot in your community? Get your friends and neighbors together to start a community garden. It s a great way to make friends and help out the whole community at the same time. Visit Gardening Matters to find out how.
The USDA’s People’s Garden website has information that includes how-to videos and where to get free seeds and funding to start a garden. You can also contact you local Extension Service and talk to their Master Gardner who will come out to your community and help you get things started.
4. Start a Free Farm Stand
Organize sellers at your local farmer’s market to start a free farm stand. They can bring the produce they don’t sell once a month to a food desert area and set up a free farm stand. Friends and neighbors who have planted an extra row or have a plethora of squash can join in too. The farm stand can operate once a month in a poor neighborhood for community members to come and get free fresh fruits and vegetables. A food bank in Ohio does something similar to this but on a larger scale.
5. Buy a Little Extra
When you are doing your shopping and you see that there is a really great sale on fresh carrots or asparagus buy a little extra and drop it off at the local shelter or soup kitchen on your way home. If you have a minute stay and volunteer. Talk to the people who work and eat there. You will find out that a little goes a long way in putting a smile on the face of someone in need.
Visit WhyHunger to find out more ways to get involved in the fight against hunger.
If you are hungry and need help finding food in your area contact the Hunger Hotline 1.800.5HUNGRY(1.800.548.6479)
Do you have any ideas on how to provide fresh fruits and veggies to the hungry in your community? Please share them with us in the comments.