In the summer of 2012, garden leaders from DUG’s West Washington Park Community Garden went to the American Community Gardening Association’s annual conference. We met a lot of gardeners there who were doing something that we honestly didn’t think of before–donating their produce to food banks and working to eliminate hunger in their communities.
When we returned, we looked into the hunger statistics in Denver, which were heartbreaking. It became crystal clear to us that we had a self-evident moral imperative to do something to help. Our garden is located on public land, and therefore we all felt that we needed to do something to help the public, especially for our less fortunate neighbors, including kids.
Although the garden was doing well, we knew it could be more productive. It was a great opportunity to convince our gardeners to pay a little more attention to their plots’ health and productivity so we’d have more than enough fresh produce to donate without cutting into what we would use to feed our own families. We asked everyone to “grow a row” or more to help feed our community.
We looked at a number of different organizations to donate to, and finally decided on DenUM (formerly known as Denver Urban Ministries). Two of our gardeners worked with the Veterans Administration, and knew the good work that they were doing with veterans, as well as other people in need. A lot of food pantries get donations of packaged food, but it’s harder for them to get donations of fresh vegetables, which as we know, are much healthier.
The first season we started donating, 85% of the gardeners participated and donated nearly 3,000 pounds of vegetables. Over the past four years, we’ve donated about 10,000 pounds of produce to people who need it most. This year was our most successful season yet–we grew more than 3,500 pounds of food.
After our first year, one of our gardeners, Mira, emailed to tell us that she went and visited DenUm to see how her donation was used. When she came back, she said, “The food from my garden now tastes better, knowing the people who benefit from it.” Thanks to our donation program, our food tastes better and we’re proud to share it with our neighbors.
Photographer: Monique Roques