Keeping It Communal
How community gardens, farms and other organizations step up to the plate.
For decades, food insecurity has plagued families across the nation. Despite a 2018 study from the United States Department of Agriculture, which reveals a minor increase in food security in the United States (from 88.2 percent in 2017 to 88.9 percent in 2018), food banks are seeing an abundance of clients. In 2018, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida distributed nearly 60 million meals to partner programs. Among these partner programs were food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters and more.
Further north in Michigan is Gleaners, a food bank that provides meals, thanks in part to the assistance of donations from grocers, local gardens and other local providers. On average, this Michigan-based food bank, which has five distribution centers, gives out 96,000 meals each day.
As food banks continue to see a steady stream of clients, a number of community gardens, farms and other organizations are stepping up to the plate as they partner and provide for their local food banks and food pantries.
One such organization is Garfield Produce Company, an indoor vertical farm located in Chicago. Prior to branching out to food distributors, Garfield Produce worked primarily with restaurants and caterers within the state of Illinois. Not only does the farm donate its unsold produce to the food pantry at Breakthrough Urban Ministries, a nearby shelter in East Garfield Park, it is one of few businesses willing to hire those with a criminal record.
Keep Growing Detroit, a company striving to change the narrative of urban cities that have become food deserts, has garnered relationships with both restaurants and urban gardeners. While Keep Growing Detroit has connected with food pantries in its region, the organization’s main goal is to equip those in the city with the tools needed to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Keep Growing Detroit does this by operating programs that support urban gardeners in the city.
In addition to food banks, some agriculture-based businesses have linked with other local charitable organizations. Chris Edwards, owner/manager at Georgia-based Elm Street Gardens and Sparta Mushrooms, shares that he’s worked with Helping Hands Foundation in Sparta, Ga., for years, providing produce at less than market. Edwards, whose current repertoire of clients includes Atlanta-based Gunshow and 8ARM, shares that an heir of social conscientiousness is what drives restaurants to companies like Elm Street Gardens and Keep Growing Detroit.
"I think they reach out to us because of the superior quality,” Edwards says. “And if they have a social conscientious, they understand supporting local business. But usually, I think most of them reach out because of the superior quality of the produce.”