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By Bobbie Whitehead

As area growers and gardeners alike continue to plant fruits and vegetables, they can help the hungry by planting an extra row of produce to support area food banks.

The Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula participates in the Plant a Row for the Hungry program and accepts fresh produce donations to feed its clients.

“We’ll take about any types of fruits and vegetables,” said Loretta Jones, Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula chief development officer. “Fresh fruits and vegetables go straight into our seniors’ and kids’ programs.”
The Peninsula food agency provides food to a larger population in the urban area, and it also supports the Boys & Girls club and the YMCA in Smithfield by providing food for afterschool feeding programs called “Kids Café,” Jones said.

“We also provide assistance to people in Surry County,” she said.

As a certified agency in the Feeding America network, the Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula has supported the Plant a Row for the Hungry, also called PAR, for years, and Jones said she’d like to see their agency’s program grow.

“Plant A Row for the Hungry is a people-helping-people program to help feed the hungry in local neighborhoods and communities,” according to the Garden Writers Association Foundation, which administers the program. “Launched in 1995 by the Garden Writers Association (GWA), Plant A Row encourages gardeners to grow a little extra and donate the produce to local soup kitchens and food pantries serving the homeless and hungry.”

Since the Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula supports people in Western Tidewater, residents in the area can make their donations there or any food agency.

The number of people lacking adequate food shows some increase. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 36.2 million Americans or 11.1 percent lived in food insecure households in 2007. In 2006, that percentage was 10.9. “Food insecure” defined by the USDA means “having very low food security based on a single episode during the year” or not having enough or adequate foods to eat to meet basic nutritional needs.

“On average, households that were food insecure at some time during the year were food insecure in 6 months during the year,” the USDA reports.

Gardeners and growers can help food banks and soup kitchens by participating in the PAR program by growing an extra row of fruits and vegetables and donating the harvest from that row or any extra fruits and vegetables to an area food agency.  

The GWA provides a downloadable brochure on its web site explaining how to participate in the program. Visit this link to download and print a copy of the brochure: http://www.gardenwriters.org/html/par/pdfs/09_par_mkt_brochure.pdf

For example, the GWA suggests that companies can help by providing monetary donations or starting a company-wide PAR campaign.

To make a donation to the Foodbank of the Virginia Peninsula, visit the agency’s web site at www.nnfoodbank.org or drop off donations at 9912 Hosier St., Newport News. Other food banks can be found at http://feedingamerica.org/foodbank-results.aspx?state=VA.

Growers: Plant a row for the hungry, support food banks

A single bell pepper plant can yield 6-8 peppers, so growing one extra row and donating the harvest can help the food banks support many families.

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