By AMY HEGGEN, Contributing Writer
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Plant a Row for the Hungry encourages the community to help grow and distribute fruits, vegetables and herbs to food shelves and soup kitchens around Clinton County.
The national campaign, which provides a system for community members to share food they have grown, comes to the local area through the efforts of Beth Dixon, a SUNY Plattsburgh philosophy professor, Margaret Tallman and Marsha Lawrence.
“Last summer, I had a lot of things I wanted to get rid of,” Dixon said of produce from her garden.
She brought her excess food to a senior center in Plattsburgh once a week.
‘A SOCIAL GOOD’
There are a variety of reasons why a person might not have access to fresh produce, Dixon said, and Plant a Row for the Hungry creates an easy way for gardeners with backyard gardens or community plots to donate extra fruits, vegetables or herbs to community members who would benefit from them.
“We are interested in people who don’t have access to nutritious food,” Dixon said. “They might not have access because they don’t have mobility, or they don’t have time to grow a garden.”
Other reasons include lack of money or transportation.
Although Dixon thinks some gardeners have already been donating surplus produce each year, she wanted to create a way to make it easier to do so, while also inspiring farmers and gardeners to plant an extra row to donate.
“There should be a way of systematically distributing the food ... to get it to people who need it most,” Dixon said.
“Nutritious fresh food is a little bit like clean water,” Dixon said. “It’s a social good. Everyone should have access to it.”
The local Plant a Row is designating drop-off locations around Clinton County, including the Interfaith Food Shelf at the Plattsburgh Methodist Church on Beekman Street, JCEO on Margaret Street, the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen and St. Peter’s Community Meal.
The Interfaith Food Shelf in Plattsburgh hands out emergency food to 500 households per month.
“I think that, if I were eating from a food pantry, what would I want to eat?” Dixon said.
The campaign is currently in the public outreach phase, and Dixon is inviting people interested in helping out to contact her.
Volunteers are needed for transporting the goods to various locations in the county, as well as processing it, which means cleaning and bagging the items to make them look presentable.
She anticipates needing many more volunteers once harvest season begins.
“We’re keen on keeping track of the number of pounds donated over the course of the summer to keep the community updated,” Dixon said.
‘THE LONG HAUL’
She also hopes that some of this community work could turn into volunteer opportunities for students in the future.
“None of us have done this before; we are in it for the long haul,” Dixon said.
Beth Spaugh, who owns Rehoboth Homestead in Peru, has donated tomato plants and a variety of seeds to the campaign.
“The food-shelf customer base has increased, and more people are trying to meet that increased need for fresh vegetables,” she said.
She buys a large quantity of seeds at a lower price for her small farm, making it easier for her to help Plant a Row for the Hungry, she said.
“I’m glad to encourage that sort of production,” Spaugh said of individuals growing produce for donation.
“It’s very good for gardeners and small farmers to pair with friends who want to participate and plant an extra row,” she said.
Spaugh said that most seed packets have more than an individual gardener will use in a season anyway.
“It’s incentive to plant more than they want and give away the extra.”
TO LEARN MORE
Plant a Row for the Hungry needs volunteers.
Find out more at http://tinyurl.com/kjl3uap Reach Beth Dixon via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.