There are no losers in Valley City’s Hunger Free North Dakota Garden Project.
Low-income residents get fresh local fruit and vegetables for their tables, and gardeners with an excess of produce have an appreciative recipient for the surplus.
Ellen Bjelland of the Barnes County Extension office said Thursday the project starts Monday, July 23.
The project is asking people to contribute excess produce from their own gardens either at the Valley City Community Gardens site or another location, and tell neighbors and friends about the effort and that excess garden produce will help others, Bjelland said.
Bjelland predicted the program will start with donations of potatoes, peas, beans and some cucumbers. “No tomatoes yet - they’re not ready.”
Bjelland said fresh vegetables and fruits are often missing from the tables of low-income families, and it is common for family garden plots to produce more than one family can eat.
Anyone who takes advantage of the program will remain anonymous, Bjelland said.
“All they have to do is get a card through one of six agencies, show the card and pick up their produce,” she said.
“It’s easy - just go in and ask for a Hunger-Free card - no questions asked.”
Agencies that will issue cards include the Open Door center, Barnes County Social Services, Barnes County Food Pantry and the Women, Infants and Children program.
Two gardeners tending their plots at the Community Gardens Thursday morning said they expect to donate excess produce this year to the program as they have in the past: Marilyn Grace who takes care of a plot with Liz Hoskisson and Bob Bruhsschwein.
“We grow more than we can eat. We give extras to our neighbors and friends. We can’t manage all these beans and tomatoes,” Bruhsschwein said pointing to the vegetables he was weeding on his plot. He expects to donate extras to the Hunger Free program this year.
Wearing a large hat as protection from the sun, Grace was using a green plastic watering can to water vegetables on the Grace/Hoskisson plot. “We donated our excess last year, and we will contribute our leftovers again this year,” Grace said.
Bjelland said the Open Door Center both weighs food and delivers it to area churches where it is distributed. Participating churches are Our Savior’s Lutheran Church-Valley City, Trinity Lutheran Church-Valley City, and Epworth United Methodist Church-Valley City.
Said Bjelland, “these organizations are actively involved in identifying those in need as well as distributing produce during the growing season.”
The Community Gardens has another option for low-income families to obtain fresh vegetables, Bjelland said. “We will work with low-income families with a scholarship or reduced fees” from the garden’s normal $30 seasonal fee and $10 deposit, she said.
The Hunger Free North Dakota Garden project, a venture initiated by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture, began in 2010 in Barnes County. Local partners in the project include the Valley City Community Gardens, Open Door, Faith in Action, Barnes County Social Services, City-County Health, Abused Persons Outreach Center, Valley City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), Barnes County Food Pantry, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church-Valley City, Trinity Lutheran Church-Valley City, and Epworth United Methodist Church-Valley City. These organizations are actively involved in identifying those in need as well as distributing produce during the growing season.
To donate produce, drop it off at the shed at the Community Gardens located just off Tenth Street SW (west of Riverside Gardens Nursery or south of Pamida) before 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Fridays during the growing season.
Participation in making donations to the program has been good in the past.
Said Bjelland, “last year, we distributed over 1500 pounds to the needy of our area. Let’s aim to match or better this figure this year.”
For further questions, contact Bjelland at the Extension Service at 845-8549 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ellen Bjelland contributed to this article