Growing To Give
Ten religious congregations have committed themselves to donating to food banks vegetables that they will grow this season at new gardens dedicated for that purpose, most on their own property.
The congregations are part of an Interfaith Community Service Garden Project developed by the Long Island Community Agriculture Network, a Huntington-based organization fiscally sponsored by the non-profit Open Space Institute. The project is funded by the Long Island Community Foundation and the New York Community Trust: Horace and Amy Hagedorn Fund.
The congregations are responding to a call to action to end childhood hunger made at the annual interfaith Martin Luther King celebration this past January. Richard Kubek, community outreach coordinator for LI Jobs with Justice and chair of the Martin Luther King Planning Committee, and Heather Forest, storyteller, farmer and a founder of LICAN, encouraged the congregations to dig up some lawn and grow vegetables to be donated to food banks and soup kitchens.
The need for donations is acute: in 2010, less than 10% of the food donated to Island Harvest, the largest distributor of food for the needy on Long Island, was fresh produce.
To help insure the success of the new gardens, LICAN has held educational workshops for congregational garden leaders and tuition-free workshops for expert gardeners to mentor the congregations. The grants provide funding to pay the mentors, as well as underwriting the educational workshops and a guide that will be made available free.
“This is a small seed that can blossom,” said Forest. “We are delighted that congregations have responded so quickly and enthusiastically.”
Some of the congregations that are rededicating portions of lawn and replacing them with vegetable gardens include: Dix Hills United Methodist Church, Bethany Presbyterian in Huntington, St. John’s Episcopal in Cold Spring Harbor, and Huntington Jewish Center. Two that lack an appropriate site on their own grounds, St. Hugh’s in Huntington Station and Temple Beth El in Huntington, are cultivating raised beds at the Soergel Outreach Garden in Greenlawn that is managed by LICAN under license from the Town of Huntington.
Many Long Island congregations, including St. Hugh’s and Bethany host food banks or community suppers, so placing gardens on their own grounds closes the loop between grower and giver.
The other religious organizations involved include: Kehillath Shalom Synagogue in Cold Spring Harbor; Huntington Jewish Center; St. John’s Episcopal of Cold Spring Harbor; the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Smithtown; the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock; and, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington.
LICAN is seeking additional donations to support the mentor services and to expand the project to other congregations.