In my newspaper column this week, I revealed startling facts: There are 800 million people who go to bed hungry. While some Moms are forced to choose between utilities and food, the global economic crisis is stressing the supplies of food banks at precisely the moment when the food is needed the most. In 2007, the number of undernourished people in the world increased by 75 million. We can expect that number to rise.
Imagine, finally getting the courage to ask for help, and there is no food on the shelves at the food bank. Imagine looking at your children.
There is a way you can simultaneously ease your own food budget constraints, while sharing fresh, nutrient-rich foods with our world’s food banks. Plant a garden, and give what you grow to your local food banks. With gardens, there’s always a surplus of something.
My best shot is a badge that I’m sharing, (the code is below) to encourage everyone to remember the hungry, and to fill the gaps by planting a garden. Today, the average tomato travels 1,500 miles and requires 400 gallons of gas to arrive at your table — this must change too if we are to remain a sustainable planet.
Code for the small badge: [a title="givewhatyougrow by susiejpics, on Flickr" href="http://www.susiej.com/index.php/give-what-you-grow/"][img src="http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3282/3282964326_3525b137da.jpg" alt="givewhatyougrow" width="166" height="161" /][/a]
(Replace these [ ] with these <> to make the button appear.)
To win your own packet of seeds from Burpee’s Money Garden, visit here.
Our country’s history carries a strong correlation between growing and eating. Vegetables were part of the United States’ arsenal during World War I. The government, trying to ensure our soldiers had enough to eat, earmarked funds for a national school garden program. A steady supply of vegetables would keep food costs down and save the War Department money. Backyard “Victory Gardens” fed our nation as the Great Depression reverberated across the land. Eleanor Roosevelt even planted a Victory Garden at Pennsylvania Avenue. By 1943, nearly 40 percent of the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed stateside were grown in gardens at schools, parks, rooftops and backyards. Careful preservation allowed us to export our harvests to our allies.
Every six seconds a child dies because he or she is hungry.
While there are many similarities between The Recession and The Depression, one common thread of both crises is the feeling of powerlessness. The Victory Gardens planted during World War I were one practical way families cut their food budget, and shared their crops. Harvesting crops also boosted morale. We only need to read Ruth Krauss’s book The Carrot Seed, one time to feel the victory of the child who learns that “it did come up,” to see how gardening feeds the souls of children. Growing food preserves our world.
But what about the work? Pat Marfisi, a gardener in drought-stricken Hollywood Hills, uses the “no-dig” or “lasagna-style” method of layering newspaper, mulch and straw directly over the sod to create a nutrition-rich bed. (Repeat, no digging.) The rich soil allows him to extend watering to more than 10-days. His garden, he says, “inundates him with food.”
If kids that help in the kitchen are more likely to eat what they make, kids are more likely to eat what they grow. A single freshly-picked snow pea could transform their palate; the sugar content of a homegrown pea is much higher than any grocery-store pod. Beans can grow into great forts, and sunflowers make great houses for children to explore nature’s marvelous bugs. Now’s the time to explore seed catalogues, and books like Sunflower Houses that give step-by-step instructions for transforming vegetables into magical spots.
While we wait for spring to make its long journey back, take this time to ponder our extensive, food supply chain, the taste of a garden-fresh tomato, and the depleting stores of our food banks. When spring arrives, I hope you’ll be ready to share what you grow. Our dinner tables could use an infusion of good, ripe, old-fashioned flavor.