By Vincent M. Russo, Research Leader, ARS South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory and Tasha Askew, Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow, USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Just in time for the 2010 Feds, Farmers, and Friends Feed Families Food Drive, is two-thousand one-hundred pounds of produce gleaned from the Oklahoma People’s Garden in conjunction with the Choctaw Nation. What an astounding amount of food to be gathered during one month!
The USDA Agricultural Research Service, South Central Agricultural Laboratory (SCARL) at Lane, OK, is enthusiastically supporting members of the Choctaw Nation to maintain, harvest and distribute the produce in the community garden. In addition to emphasizing organic and reduced input production methods, the laboratory conducts research into the development of production systems for vegetable crops.
This is the second year of operation for the garden initiated in response to Secretary Vilsack’s challenge to USDA employees to plant and maintain People’s Gardens at USDA facilities worldwide or help communities create gardens.
Interestingly enough, community gardening is and gleaning are nothing new to the staff at SCARL. They have participated in the USDA Gleaner Program since the mid-1990’s. The produce left after research sampling was offered to various community groups that provided volunteers to conduct the harvest.
The majority of organizations that participated were local and generally distributed produce through INCA, a community action organization in the Atoka County, Oklahoma area. An additional several hundred pounds of produce, separate from the People’s Garden, were gleaned from field plots and distributed through INCA this year.
Want to know how you can help feed a neighbor? If you work in a federal building in the Capital area, you can donate non-perishable foods in labeled Feds Feed Families boxes. Nationwide, you can find a local food bank or food pantry to donate to by visiting these websites and searching by your state or zip code. If you know of any nearby house of worship or other organization which feeds the hungry, please consider donating to them as well.