3 ways your garden extras feed the hungry in our community

Living in a food desert or a food-insecure household comes with many challenges. Most apparent is consistently putting enough food on the table. While there are organizations across the Triangle (including Inter-Faith Food Shuttle) that provide help to those facing a tough time, that food commonly consists of shelf-stable, processed foods. This leads to a secondary problem of not eating enough fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables – which in turn leads to all kinds of health problems. In North Carolina about 65% of food bank clients from 2013 had a household member with high blood pressure, and 37% had a household member with diabetes.

That’s why IFFS places a high value on providing the communities we serve with healthy food, not just any food. Of the 6.5 million pounds of food IFFS rescued and distributed in 2014, 40% was fresh produce. One key way IFFS is able to reach the 40% threshold is through the Plant a Row for the Hungry program.

Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) is a national program created by The Garden Writers Association that encourages garden communities and individuals to donate fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs to people in need. Inter-Faith Food Shuttle is the PAR partner in the Triangle, and we are constantly amazed at the bounty shared by churches, communities, and individuals.

Recently Nancy Hemphill, of PAR donor Disciples' Community Garden at St. Francis United Methodist Church in Cary, inquired what happens to the fresh fruits and veggies after a garden donates food. It’s a great question, and one with multiple answers:

How Plant a Row produce goes from garden to table

Although growing a garden is a labor of love, donating PAR produce is easy! Gardeners simply harvest ripe fruit and veggies and deliver it to one of the Plant a Row drop-off locations below during the set times.

Plant A Row Drop-off Sites

Site Location Day/Time
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle 1001 Blair Drive Raleigh, NC 27603 Monday-Friday 9:00am-4:00pm year round Please specify Plant-a-Row donations
Logan Trading Company 707 Semart Drive Raleigh, NC 27604 Monday- Saturday 9:00am-6:00pm year round

PAR-graphicThese dedicated PAR drop-off partners temporarily hold the donations for IFFS until our next regularly scheduled pickup (typically twice a week). Once the produce is loaded onto an IFFS Food Recovery and Distribution truck, there are 3 possible destinies:

  1. Provide a healthy option at a local food pantry
  2. Become an ingredient in our commercial teaching kitchen
  3. Feed a family via our Mobile Markets

1. PAR produce for Food Pantries

Sometimes Plant a Row produce never makes it to the IFFS warehouse – and that’s a good thing! What often happens is PAR fruits and veggies picked up early in a truck route will be unloaded a few stops later at one of our partner food pantries. Emergency pantries at places like Catholic Parish Outreach and Western Wake Crisis Ministry directly provide families in need with food from all food groups, and IFFS is their main source of fresh produce.

2. PAR produce in the IFFS kitchen

The IFFS kitchen uses food from PAR along with other donations to prepare thousands of well-balanced meals a week, which are then delivered to local soup kitchens and children’s programs. This is crucial to IFFS Summer Feeding efforts and helps smaller organizations, such as Shepherd’s Table and AME, use their limited funds for services rather than for food.

PAR food in the kitchen is also used to train IFFS Culinary Job Training Program students. This unique 11-week hands-on course prepares under/unemployed adults with severe life challenges for living-wage careers in food service. Those carrot and tomatoes PAR growers drop off make great practice for knife skills and homemade sauces!

3. PAR produce at Mobile Markets

IFFS Mobile Markets are direct distributions of groceries and fresh produce in low income neighborhoods, designed to meet people at their point of need. IFFS drives a refrigerated truck full of food, including fresh produce donated by Plant a Row gardeners, to a community center, church, or health clinic. We set up a temporary market where folks who need food can “shop” for free and choose the foods they enjoy. See a list of Mobile Market locations here.

Plant a Row for the Hungry is a fantastic opportunity for anyone with a garden to make a difference in the lives of your neighbors. Visit our PAR page to learn more or get started!


By Lindsay Humbert, IFFS Digital Media Specialist. Contact: Lindsay@FoodShuttle.org