Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on October 23, 2009 by Paulina Nelega, RH
The government has come up with a fancy new term to refer to hungry Americans – Food Insecure.
Before the current recession hit America, approximately 36 million people were receiving food assistance. These days that number has almost tripled!
Most US families are able to visit a locally run food pantry in order to obtain free food items. These food pantries are usually a tiny room inside a church or community center and receive the donated food from regional food banks, or local grocery stores. They also heavily depend on the generosity of the people in the neighborhood.
Inside these food pantries are shelves containing mostly non-perishable food items such as packaged or canned foods, juice boxes or juice mixes, dry milk powder and other household necessities. Some larger food pantries will even have a fridge that is stocked with dairy products and other such perishables.
The only drawback is that the food pantries do not contain any fresh produce, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Today, nearly 1 out of every 8 Americans require food assistance, but their local food pantry does not stock fresh produce, only pre-packaged, additive-stuffed non-perishable food products.
Long before the recession hit, lots of Americans were growing fruits and vegetables out of their own backyards. These backyard growers were enjoying working outside in their own gardens whilst at the same enjoying the fruits of their labors, literally!
However, the recession has caused many people to take a second look at growing vegetables in their backyards. Even those who do not have a backyard!
Although it will take some time for these gardens to sprout, one they start, they are soon overgrown with an abundant amount of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Once harvested, these backyard growers will try to eat as much of the food as possible and will either can, preserve or pickle their rest. They may even offer a few to their neighbors, friends and family members.
However, a person can only eat so much, and so the remainder of the harvest either gets left to rot in the garden, placed on a compost pile or gets thrown away.
But what if these extra produce was taken to the local food pantry instead? Better yet, what if everyone had the opportunity to grow their own food?
In today’s world, land is a very valuable asset – but only if it is utilized to its fullest potential. Most people living in the city do not use their gardens to grow vegetables and let the land just sit only with the occasional mowing of the grass. There are thousands of backyards that are not being used and have plenty of room in them to set aside for a vegetable garden.
In North America alone, nearly 40% of the inhabitants don’t live in single detached housing where the yard space is undeniably theirs to use as they please.
The remaining 60%, who do have access to fertile land within city limits, do not do anything with it.
Sharing Backyard Space
A great solution to these problems is for people who have large enough backyards to share growing space with other people.
In response to these problems organizations have sprung up all along North America in an attempt to help connect people who wish to grow their own food, with those people who have ample land to share.
This type of community gardening is highly personalized, almost as if you are sharing your garden with extended family members. The goal is to help make sure that everyone in America has the opportunity to grow their own food, regardless of where they live.
Whilst sharing your backyard with someone else in an effort to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, might sound like a wonderful idea, there are few things that you should take into consideration first.
Before deciding on anyone in particular, make sure that you meet them first in a public place. Discuss the days and times that you will make your garden space available to them.
Also figure out whether the other person has any gardening tools or if they will want to use yours. Where will the tools be kept when not in use?
Something else to consider is whether or not you will be supplying the seeds to be planted.
You will definitely need to agree on what types of fruits and vegetables you would like to grow in your garden.
Finally, you will also need to discuss who will harvest the food and how it will be distributed.
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan