Do you look forward to digging in the dirt and planting seeds each spring? Is your garden overflowing with fresh, healthy fruits and veggies? If, like many of us over-enthusiastic gardeners, you find yourself with six zucchinis and ten pounds of tomatoes sometime during the season, the Mid-Willamette Valley Plant a Row (PAR) for the Hungry program could use your help supplying food to your neighbors in need. Even if you harvest only a small amount of excess produce each season, your donations will make a huge difference at local food pantries and soup kitchens.
In 2008, the OSU Benton County Master Gardeners teamed up with the Garden Writers Association to start the Mid-Willamette Valley PAR program. According to the program, “Our goal is to increase food insecurity awareness in our community while distributing much-needed fresh and healthy food.” All fruits and vegetables donated to local food distribution centers and soup kitchens help feed the area’s in-need population. Gardeners can bring excess produce to any of the 20 drop-off points in Corvallis, Philomath, Alsea, Albany, Sweet Home, Lebanon, and Brownsville. In most areas, multiple sites are available each week to receive donations. The program runs year-round—donate greenhouse-grown crops in the winter, excess veggies and fruits frozen during the summer months, or even produce from your local grocery store.
Participation in the PAR program is incredibly straightforward. In reference to local drop-off sites, Maureen Putnam, the Mid-Valley Willamette PAR Coordinator, adds, “It’s set up for people to be independent and to make it as easy as possible—you know you can take it there and they’ll use it.”
In 2010, Oregon ranked third in the nation for hunger. You can make a major difference in the Willamette Valley by becoming an active participant in the PAR program and donating excess produce to those in the community in need of healthy foods. You might even decide to plant a dedicated row in your garden for the purpose of feeding your neighbors and their families. Add yourself to the PAR email list by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll receive valuable information about drop-off locations in your area. When donating, take a moment to help the program track donations by providing your drop-off point location and estimated poundage to the email address above. Accurate tracking helps maintain the PAR program’s eligibility for funds that go toward the cultivation of additional produce by the OSU Benton County Master Gardeners and provide food-producing plants each year to those in need.
For more information, visit http://extension.oregonstate.edu/benton/mg-par.
By Genevieve Weber
– Garden Writers Association – Plant a Row for the Hungry
– OSU Benton County Master Gardeners – Plant a Row for the Hungry