As the harvest season comes to a close, the People’s Garden has a lot to be thankful for this year. Last week, the Initiative’s ‘Share Your Harvest’ effort passed the one million pound mark of fresh produce donated to local food banks and charities across the country.
In 2009, Secretary Vilsack started the People’s Garden Initiative – named in honor of President Lincoln’s description of USDA as the “People’s Department” – by challenging employees to create gardens at USDA facilities. This initiative has since grown into a collaborative effort of over 600 local and national organizations that all work together to establish community and school gardens.
To date, the People’s Garden has donated 578,269 pounds of produce from gleaning and 513,717 pounds from gardens, for a total of 1,091,986 pounds. Gleaning is the process of collecting excess foods from farmers markets, farms, stores and restaurants. The produce collected this year came from 200 vegetable gardens and 30 gleaning projects.
In comparison, the ‘Share Your Harvest’ effort donated 32,000 pounds in 2009 and just over 130,000 pounds in 2010.
Unlike time limited food drives, ‘Share Your Harvest’ is a year-round effort that supplies needy families with healthy fruits and vegetables. The majority of the produce for this effort is harvested from June to October, the average growing season for the majority of the country. There also are several gardens using high tunnels to extend the growing season.
Currently, there are over 1,400 People’s Gardens, with locations in all 50 states, three U.S. territories and nine foreign countries. The main sites for these people’s gardens are at faith-based centers, on federal leased or owned property, at schools and other locations within the community.
As the holiday season approaches, it is important to remember those in need. People’s Gardens are a great way to unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire locally-led solutions to challenges facing our country.
To learn more about the People’s Garden, click here.