For the past few years, several Acorners have collaborated with local organizations including the Louisa County Resource Council (Low-income Food Distribution Center) and The Central Virginia Master Gardeners to start up a local food bank garden program called Plant a Row. Plant a Row encourages gardeners to grow extra in their gardens to donate to their local food bank to help provide fresh, local, and healthy produce to economically disadvantaged people. We expanded the program to include a garden education center at the food bank, where we grow a variety of vegetables, hold workshops on organic gardening, and have cook-offs to prepare freshly harvested veggies into delicious samples for folks to try.
Although this is a little outside the norms of the typical Acorn project, we think it’s important to break down oppression in all its various iterations, not just within our little community bubble. We see access to healthy food (that isn’t covered in pesticides!) as one of the building blocks to a healthy, productive life, which should be a right, not a privilege. Natural food stores and farmers markets are great, but the prices can be cost prohibitive, especially for those who are suffering to make ends meet. With this project, we aspire to bring in more fresh food to the food bank, as well as to also empower clients of the food bank with the knowledge and skills to garden, putting control over our food source back in the hands of the people.
As you may guess, it’s difficult to implement such lofty ideology into a practical reality. One of the biggest challenges is to make connections with the food bank clients in a sustained and meaningful way. An attempt to address this is the samples portion of the program, where we serve samples made from in-season veggies and let clients know that the those potatoes in that cheesy potato pocket (gotta start somewhere!) were harvested from the garden out back just yesterday. Many of them don’t even know about the garden, so this gives us a great opportunity to tell people about the program and give them a tour of the garden.
If you visit Acorn and you think this project sounds cool, ask how you can help out! With this new, volunteer-run program, we need all the help we can get.