Plant An Extra Row

Extra Romaine Lettuce is Easy to Grow For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

“Do You Have Any Leftovers?” was written on the sign next to the man sitting humbly on a street where popular cafes and restaurants have sidewalk seating on a Boulder, Colorado street. We were struck to the core by these words.

He wasn’t asking for money or even for “food.” This street beggar simply wanted what we were going to throw away, reminding passers-by that if they had a few morsels they weren’t going to eat at that streetside cafe, he’d be happy to gulp it down. My son had half a bagel wrapped in a napkin that he was going to eat for lunch. He promptly put it in the man’s hands and they smiled at each other as the man gratefully ate the food.

Potatoes Harvested For the Hungry. Photo © Liesl Clark

This direct experience with someone whom we knew was hungry got us thinking creatively about our food and where we have leftovers that might help others. If you have a garden, you’ve likely experienced the good fortune of excess produce to share with friends and neighbors. Why not share it with neighbors who are in need of food? Plant a row for the hungry, and at harvest time take your produce to your nearest food bank to augment the traditional canned goods people donate. A box full of lettuces, tomatoes, squash, or carrots will bring joy to those who might not have had a fresh locally-grown vegetable for months.

Digging for Treasure. Photo © Liesl Clark

My friend, Rebecca Rockefeller, and I planted a garden together with our children that donated over half the produce to our local food bank, Helpline House. Potato harvest was particularly fun for the kids. It’s like digging for treasure. I always make room for a few extra rows of greens, too, to share on our local Buy Nothing group. Anything we can’t eat is shared with our neighbors. It helps us to meet new people who have moved to the neighborhood.

Children Love Harvesting For Others in Need. Photo © Liesl Clark

The children enjoy bringing the boxes of produce we harvest into our local food bank. Last year we donated 148 lbs of food and hope to double our contribution this year. Of course, potatoes and zucchini do add up! Planting an extra row or 2 has helped us rethink our bounty in general. When we have the time, homemade yogurt is donated, along with extra eggs from the henhouse and a loaf of fresh-baked bread shouldn’t be too hard to contribute once a month or so. We’re shifting our food-production model to include more hungry bodies. And we’ll think of the man on the Boulder sidewalk happy to eat our half-eaten bagel because he simply was that hungry. Imagine if we could’ve given him a handfull of fresh strawberries, apples, and carrots picked minutes before.

These Greens From My Garden Went to Helpline House. Photo © Liesl Clark

If you can’t plant a row for the hungry, you can find edible bounty around you to donate. We’re looking forward to doing some foraging for our less fortunate neighbors for watercress and blackberries when the season is right. There’s plenty out there, so why not take a little time out of your day to provide for a few more mouths than your own? It brings joy and a feeling of connection to those around us through the food we grow and harvest with our own hands.

Nasturtiums and Peas. Photo © Liesl Clark

9 thoughts on “Plant An Extra Row

  1. This is brilliant. Sadly, because of distribution logistics I don’t entirely understand, we’re discouraged from bringing fresh goods to our food bank. They do collect ‘fresh’ stuff that’s reached its sell-by date from the supermarket, but that’s scarcely the same

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      • No. To be honest it barely exists in the UK. I’ve Googled it, & can only find evidence of one group! I’m a member of LETS which has similar aims, but we are currently not thriving either. I’m going to have to think about this. Not been here that long, rural (but most people work in town, not in the community), not sure where to start. But I do find your blog inspirational.

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        • Ok, I get that! We have 14 groups, currently, in England and more are on the way. Some are thriving and others are just getting going. Here’s the list:
          England

          Berkshire : Earley
          Berkshire : Earley/Lower Earley
          Berkshire : Mortimer
          Berkshire : Windsor and Maidenhead
          Berkshire : Woodley
          Hampshire : Silchester
          London : Clapham
          Shropshire : Cosford / Albrighton
          Somerset : Bath (Southeast)
          Somerset : Frome
          West Berkshire : Burghfield
          West Yorkshire : Pudsey
          Wiltshire : Warminster
          Yorkshire : Boroughbridge

          Liked by 1 person

          • Boroughbridge is perfect. Well, it’s not too far anyway. I’d forgotten I had once found this out. I’ve just had a look and been directed to their FB page. I don’t know any of the 8 members, but I applied weeks ago to be a member. My status is still ‘pending’, which doesn’t seem positive. Of course I’m also a member of Freegle locally, but although it’s used a lot, it’s geographically extremely widespread, and it becomes a balancing act – is it right and worth it to use the fuel to collect the goods?

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  2. I think this is wonderful! If only we could get something like that here. I live in Scotland, and even the supermarkets can’t donate their left over fresh stuff to the homeless/hungry due to “Health & Safety” (meaning that if anybody got sick due to eating fresh food that was on its sell by date, they could be liable for prosecution). So this post is a joy to read, thank you.

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