The New Hampshire Food Bank: Making It Work
|Features - Farmers and Markets|
|Written by Michelle Collins|
The best thing for a food bank to do when they are running out of food is to grow it themselves.
That’s exactly what the New Hampshire Food Bank decided to do three years ago when they were short on donations. They started a Production Garden, and set it up in front of the Youth Development Center in Manchester. Jason Rivers was put in charge of managing the plot.
“I did the Culinary Training Program – I was unemployed,” Rivers said. “They liked my work ethic…[but] I don’t think they knew how much I loved gardening.”
Now in its third season, the Production Garden has grown to a full acre at the Youth Development Center (YDC) site, and has even gained another ½ acre of land at St. Anselm College in Manchester. I visited the YDC site last weekend, and the plot was abundant with a variety of foods, including summer squash, basil, mint, zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, cucumber, and even squash pumpkins.
“[The produce] is divided between three programs: the [Food Bank’s] warehouse, the Culinary Training Program, and Operation Frontline.”
The Food Bank’s Recipe for Success Culinary Training Program is designed for individuals who are suffering financially, to help them acquire the skills they need in order to gain employment in the food service industry. Operation Frontline, on the other hand, was formed when Share Our Strength and the New Hampshire Food Bank came together to help individuals in the area who couldn’t afford food. Operation Frontline is a national nutritional education and financial literacy program. Since it was founded in 2000, Operation Frontline has provided solutions to over 900 residents by providing over 90 cooking class series and workshops.
All week, every week, Rivers scours the Production Garden for ready-to-be-picked produce, and brings the freshest batch to the walk-in fridge at the Food Bank. All the programs that the garden feeds pick up their food at that one central space.
“As soon as it’s in, it’s gone,” Rivers said.
Although Rivers started out managing the Production Garden on his own, he fortunately has had help this season from several volunteers, sent over by local companies. Even local farmers have started to make donations to the Food Bank.
The concept behind the New Hampshire Food Bank’s Production Garden is simple: They needed food, so they started growing it themselves. In only three years, the garden has grown significantly, and has helped tremendously in keeping the Food Bank’s supply sustainable, healthy and abundant. For more information on the Food Bank, its programs, and the garden, as well as how you can become a volunteer, check out their website at http://www.nhfoodbank.org/.