I've been lucky enough to be part of a really wonderful and caring group of people who have come to be involved with The GardenWorks Project. For five seasons, we've been building raised bed gardens at the homes of families in need in the DuPage County area - 132 gardens, to be exact. We've given 516 individuals (almost half of those are children) access to homegrown vegetables and the skills to grow their own food for a lifetime.
Kind, skilled and energetic volunteers have donated countless hours to grow this organization since 2012. But I think I can speak for our board of directors and committee members when I say that we are experiencing a new energy and an even greater level of determination and commitment to building a strong and vibrant community of gardeners and supporters united in our dedication to ensuring nutritious food is available to everyone.
We know that we can't provide a raised-bed garden to everyone who needs one. The number of families in the DuPage County area who struggle to obtain their next meal is too great. According to Impact DuPage 2016, over 74,000 people, and 14.6% of the children living in DuPage County are food insecure - they don't have enough food to live a healthy life. While we are proud of the 56 gardens we built in 2016, it was not enough to serve everyone who would have benefited from fresh vegetables and the skills and resources to grow it for themselves. Even those families that are served by our programs cannot grow all of the food their families require with one 4x8’ garden.
While our gardens serve the important purposes of providing a portion of the food a family needs (supplementing what they receive from food pantries), teaching families how to grow food at home, and reducing their dependency on budget-busting grocery stores, low-income families need help from other sources.
We believe that by supporting our food pantry partners, who are doing incredible work to feed the hungry in our community, we can make fresh produce available to those we can't build gardens for. Which leads us to our new mission and vision statements:
Mission: The GardenWorks Project empowers, educates, and promotes organic suburban agriculture to improve the well-being of our community, the environment, and families facing food insecurity. We support all gardeners in their efforts to grow and prepare food for themselves and their neighbors in need.
Vision: Our community nourished by gardeners empowered to grow and share food.
In addition to providing home gardeners with all of the resources necessary to grow food at home, we will also make resources available to home, community, and school gardeners who wish to join our network and help stock our local food pantries with hyper-local organic produce.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be sharing our new programs with you. If you find yourself inspired to get involved, please reach out. You can also support our mission by donating on #GivingTuesday (November 29, 2016) when you can join a global day of giving on facebook and other social media. Or, you can always give here.
I look forward to sharing more details on how, by growing food together, we can increase the amount, variety, and freshness of the produce offered in food pantries, ensuring that everyone in our community has access to fresh, healthy foods.
All the best,