As high unemployment fuels a strong demand at Indiana food banks, community gardens are delivering vital assistance to the needy. Purdue Extension and Master Gardeners are leading efforts to expand or start community gardens, marshal volunteers and provide educational resources to meet the need.
One such community garden helps stock a dozen local food banks and charities, and serves as an educational outdoor laboratory in Howard County.
Fresh Start Ministries Director Donna Mohler comes to the garden weekly to pick up vegetables used to prepare a meal for about 90 homeless people. Mohler plans the menu around the garden produce, and what she doesn’t use, she cans or freezes for use all winter. “It’s been a godsend,” says Mohler, who estimates the garden cuts her grocery bill by about a third. “Plus, it’s fresh and nutritious.”
The garden—a joint effort between Purdue Extension Howard County, Howard County Master Gardeners, and Ivy Tech Community College–Kokomo—draws support from citizens and local businesses. Volunteers contribute about 1,500 hours and typically harvest 13,000 to 16,000 pounds of produce annually. The garden has yielded more than 65 tons of produce since 2003, its first year of operation.