Cleveland Foodbank Garden
The Cleveland Foodbank’s community garden not only brings nutritional sustenance to their clients but also serves as an educational hub for the community.
Satisfying Hunger and Embracing Wellness
It used to be that the emergency food supplies a needy family could pick up from a local food pantry would be heavy on carbs and cans and light on healthy produce. Food banks around the country have been trying to improve on that, especially by incorporating more fresh vegetables. The Cleveland Foodbank has turned much of its available land into a large community garden to grow fresh produce to supply its 700 member organizations. In 2012, the Cleveland Foodbank distributed roughly 13.2 million pounds of nonperishable food but also an impressive 11.6 million pounds of fresh produce.
Produce from the Foodbank’s community garden is made available to hungry kids throughout the Summer Feeding program and in the Kid’s Café during the school year. It is also used in the hot meals distributed from the Foodbank’s kitchen. Twenty-five member agencies help care for and partake directly in the garden’s harvest.
The community garden has accomplished more than just producing more produce, though. “[Teaching] might be the most important aspect of the garden,” President Anne Goodman says. The garden has been used as a tool to educate the Foodbank’s members—which include church pantries, homeless shelters, and hot meal programs for seniors and residents of public housing—on how to do their own gardening. They share green thumbs tips—like the benefits of using “Garden Soxx,” a product that reduces the amount of required water and weeding. Staff also show members how to integrate fresh produce in the meals that they serve to needy families in the city. Many children served by various programs supported by the Foodbank actually come to the Community Garden to help with planting, watering, and weeding. In this way, they learn something about gardening and also about where their food comes from.
Moreover, the Foodbank conducts cooking demonstrations with the food from the garden to teach community members how to prepare healthy food. “Greens are popular in the inner city, but people tend to prepare them with things like butter,” Goodman explains. “So we have a nutritionist to teach people how to prep them healthily.”