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USDA Employee Volunteers Are Back in the Garden & Community

(L to R) DC Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C. Rich Holcomb employee, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Brian Lounsbury, and USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Dewell Delgado Paez stand with a bin of just washed bok choy that was grown USDA headquarters Peoples Garden in Washington, D.C. USDA photo.

(L to R) DC Central Kitchen in Washington, D.C. Rich Holcomb employee, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Brian Lounsbury, and USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Dewell Delgado Paez stand with a bin of just washed bok choy that was grown USDA headquarters Peoples Garden in Washington, D.C. USDA photo.

Every week USDA employee volunteers pick ripe herbs and vegetables from the Headquarters People’s Garden and deliver it to DC Central Kitchen, a local community kitchen. So far this growing season more than 1,000 pounds of fresh food has been donated from the garden. This week’s harvest weighed in at 175 pounds and included 84 pounds of bok choy.

Our volunteers wanted to know what becomes of the food they’ve worked so hard to grow, pick and donate – particularly all that bok choy. That’s why yesterday morning they rolled up their sleeves in the Kitchen to learn how the food donated from the garden each week is made into delicious and nutritious meals. USDA employees worked alongside DCCK cooks to prepare trays of bean burritos (with chopped bok choy inside) and Spanish rice that are being delivered to partner agencies in the Washington metropolitan area, including homeless shelters, rehabilitation clinics, and afterschool programs today.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) volunteer Maria Nemeth-Ek helps label and sort 175 pounds of fresh produce harvested from USDA headquarters People's Garden on Oct. 18, 2013, including 84 lbs. of bok choy. USDA photo.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) volunteer Maria Nemeth-Ek helps label and sort 175 pounds of fresh produce harvested from USDA headquarters People's Garden on Oct. 18, 2013, including 84 lbs. of bok choy. USDA photo.

Now that volunteers were able to see the process from garden to plate, here’s a sample of what they said about the experience:

“Spending time with the dedicated chefs and staff at DCCK was an opportunity to see ‘the next step’ for the harvested produce from the People’s Garden. Further, we volunteers got hands-on experience in the community efforts that are taking place every day to provide nutritious and fresh meals to food insecure individuals in our own city. Just as important as our classes on growing food, a morning spent at DCCK was another opportunity to get involved with our local food system.” – Lindsay Carter, Foreign Agriculture Service

“It was truly a team effort between the USDA People’s Garden volunteers and the DC Central Kitchen staff to accomplish everything we prepared today.” – Judy Steer, USDA-Rural Development

“It was amazing to see how fast and efficient the kitchen is run. It seems like an overwhelming task to take fresh ingredients and chop, slice, dice, mix and make 5,000 meals from scratch, but DC Central Kitchen does it everyday and the chefs make it look easy…but it’s a lot of work.” - Tanya Brown, USDA-Farm Service Agency

“I enjoyed knowing that I helped bring food to the table to all those who benefit from this great entity.” – Dewell Delgado Paez, USDA- National Institute of Food and Agriculture

“I can definitely see the positive impact the DCCK has on local schools, shelters, and the DC urban food system.” – Karen Grubb, USDA- National Institute of Food and Agriculture

“The work DC Central Kitchen is doing is valuable in terms of wise use of resources, promoting physical health and nutrition, building communities, and facilitating renewal and opportunity in the lives of people in at risk populations.” – Megan O’Reilly, USDA- National Institute of Food and Agriculture

To learn more about the People’s Garden and gardening resources available check out this site. View more photos here.

The edible portions of bok choy (also known as Chinese chard) are the shiny, dark green leaves and the thick, chalk-white stalks. The chopped leaves of the bok choy grown at U.S. Department of Agriculture’s headquarters Peoples Garden are part of the filling for the bean burritos at the DC Central Kitchen. USDA photo.

The edible portions of bok choy (also known as Chinese chard) are the shiny, dark green leaves and the thick, chalk-white stalks. The chopped leaves of the bok choy grown at U.S. Department of Agriculture’s headquarters Peoples Garden are part of the filling for the bean burritos at the DC Central Kitchen. USDA photo.

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