By Abby Fullen
My dear sister, Emma, is as sweet as pie, but her eating habits can often drive me to insanity. A friend and I even came up with a song to describe her wasteful ways:
Sheeee’s get a lotta, eat a little, get a lotta, eat a little, get a lotta, eat a little Em-ma/ (repeat)/
She gets a lot of food, but only eats a little/ she gets a lot of food, but only eats a bit.
It’s truly a catchy tune, and it’s unfortunate that you’ll never hear the melodic strains, unless you’re lucky, but it really does summarize the extent to which my sister bothers me with ALL the food she gets, and how it ALL goes into the trash. The positive out of this, though, is my desire to help those who can’t have the experience of getting so much food they can throw it away, or even have enough to eat in the first place.
According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, 1 in 8 households in the United States experiences hunger or the risk of hunger. Approximately 33 million people, including 13 million children, have substandard diets. Food insecurity exists in every county in America: in 2011, 17.9 million households were insecure. More than 50 million Americans struggle to put food on the table.
Despite the need for food, millions of people are turned away from food banks because of a lack of resources. Here’s how one man decided to make an easy, significant change in this crisis, and thus inspired me to contribute in the same, easy way.
In 1995, Anchorage, AK garden columnist and former Garden Writers Association president Jeff Lowenfels asked readers to plant a row of vegetables for Bean’s Cafe, an Anchorage Soup Kitchen. Over 84 million households in the US support a yard or garden. If each household fulfilled their potential for a garden and planted just one additional row of vegetables, a HUGE impact would be made. Being a great success, Lowenfels introduced the Plant a Row initiative (PAR) to the Garden Writers Association, and thus was launched a national program.
It took 5 years to reach the first million pounds donated. The next million was reached in only 2 years, and in the next ten, more than a million pounds of food was donated each year. Since 2011, nearly 2 million pounds of food has been donated each year to various soup kitchens, local food banks, and service organizations to feed America’s hungry. Considering each pound of produce supplements 4 meals, this is a very significant contribution since the start of the program. Since 1995, over 20 million pounds of produce providing over 80 million meals have been donated by American gardeners. And the contributions can only continue as hunger is still, and increasingly, prevalent; the demand for hunger assistance has increased by 70% in recent years.
PAR provides focus, direction and support to volunteer committees that promote herb, vegetable, and community gardening at a local level. They provide training and direction to enable committees to reach out into the community, and they assist in coordinating local food collection systems and monitor the volume of donations being conveyed to food agencies. Now a 501(c)(3) organization, The Garden Writers Association Foundation was founded to administer and expand PAR. Contributors and volunteers don’t have to worry about government subsidy or bureaucratic red tape; this is simply “people helping people.”
PAR encourages anyone and everyone to be a part of the easy steps toward helping eliminate hunger in America. Spread the word, share personal experiences, join the GWA Foundation, and of course, Plant a Row!
PAR Hotline: 1-877-492-2727
Abby Fullen is a Senior at Hilliard Davidson High School. She tends a square-foot vegetable garden with her mother. This piece was written to serve in conjunction with her Career Mentorship class at the Dale McVey Innovative Learning Center.