Friday, June 09, 2023

Free food

For the last three years a group of volunteer gardeners has helped provide fresh produce to some Southside neighborhoods. Started in 2020 by the city planning department, the "Hope Grows" victory gardens were a way to help people stay active and connected in safe and healthy ways when COVID-19 upended many social routines. In addition, the initiative added more options for fresh, locally-grown food at a time of rising food insecurity.

Now in their third year, the victory gardens--at Aptiv on South Avenue, at Hogan Administrative Center near 19th & Mississippi, and at City Hall (the EAST garden, not the  south one!)--are producing tasty veggies and encouraging more people to get involved with making local food more available.

And none too soon. The climate crisis is predicted to have devastating effects on global food systems. In the U.K., floods, droughts, and intense heat, in addition to animal-related illnesses, have disrupted food availability to such an extent that U.K supermarkets rationed fresh produce purchases earlier this year. In the U.S. wheat and corn harvests will be affected by drought. The high "food-miles" model of highly processed, packaged food products being shipped thousands of miles is also unsustainable if we want to reduce transportation emissions. And the war in Ukraine has ripped apart that important contributor. In the Netherlands, the limits of intensive, productive mean changes must be made to reduce nitrogen pollution that is devastating natural areas. In the U.S. intensive animal agriculture is a main source of ag-related carbon emissions as well as surface and groundwater contamination. Things have got to change.

The neighborhood victory gardens are a model that could and should be replicated around the city. Maybe we should have a neighborhood garden for every nine-block area? Maybe we should be planting fruit and nut trees on our streets and boulevards (as they are doing in Copenhagen) to make sure more local food is available. Maybe, rather than growing grassy lawns which do nothing to help pollinators and require costly and carbon-emitting maintenance and mowing, schools should be growing corn, beans, and squash instead. Maybe more public parks should include food gardens.

In the meantime, anyone is welcome to help garden and to pick a meal. Bring the kids. Plan a menu around what's available at the garden. Learn how you can grow food in your own yard.

Aptiv (3000 South Ave.) group gardening times are Tuesday and Friday mornings from 8 to 9 a.m.

Hogan garden hour is Tuesday mornings from 9:30 to 10:30.

City Hall garden hour is Wednesdays from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

For more information, visit or email or call 608-315-2693

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