For 14 years, the Garden Writers Association has asked its members and other active gardeners to Plant a Row for the Hungry. The idea is simple: When planning your vegetable garden, plant more than your family can eat and donate the excess produce to a local food shelf or soup kitchen. This seems like the perfect time for more people to embrace this idea.
As a result of the current economic situation, the number of visits to Minnesota food shelves rose to about 2 million in 2008. In addition to concerns about not having enough food, many people who are struggling economically resort to low-quality food because it is cheap. Unfortunately, a large percentage of food shelf users are children.
Plant a Row is a simple program. Grow the food, then check with your local food shelf about when and where to drop it off. Northern Gardener columnist Terry Yockey has been promoting this program in Red Wing for several years. Last year, gardeners in her area contributed about 100 pounds of fresh produce per week to their local food shelf. I checked with the Northfield food shelf staff at the Community Action Center and was told they love to get donations of fresh produce! Several area farmers and gardeners already bring in some produce, but use of the food shelf is rising — 400 families (about 1,200 people, most of them children) in Northfield are using it now. This year when you plant your garden, please put in a little extra for the food shelf.