People’s Gardens Give Back Over One Million Pounds
People’s Gardens Give Back Over One Million Pounds
As the harvest season comes to a close, the People’s Garden has a lot to be thankful for this year. Last week, the Initiative’s ‘Share Your Harvest’ effort passed the one million pound mark of fresh produce donated to local food banks and charities across the country.
Chuck Hanagan has worked for USDA-Farm Service Agency for 25 years and operates a family farm in Swink, Colorado. Having an abundance of fresh vegetables has given his office the opportunity to participate in gleaning efforts for the Department’s ‘Share Your Harvest’ campaign. 4,000 lbs was donated by Hanagan Farms. The pumpkins pictured are in bins awaiting shipment. Many of them ended up with the families of deployed troops on the Army base at Fort Carson.
In 2009, Secretary Vilsack started the People’s Garden Initiative – named in honor of President Lincoln’s description of USDA as the “People’s Department” – by challenging employees to create gardens at USDA facilities. This initiative has since grown into a collaborative effort of over 600 local and national organizations that all work together to establish community and school gardens.
To date, the People’s Garden has donated 578,269 pounds of produce from gleaning and 513,717 pounds from gardens, for a total of 1,091,986 pounds. Gleaning is the process of collecting excess foods from farmers markets, farms, stores and restaurants. The produce collected this year came from 200 vegetable gardens and 30 gleaning projects.
In comparison, the ‘Share Your Harvest’ effort donated 32,000 pounds in 2009 and just over 130,000 pounds in 2010.
Unlike time limited food drives, ‘Share Your Harvest’ is a year-round effort that supplies needy families with healthy fruits and vegetables. The majority of the produce for this effort is harvested from June to October, the average growing season for the majority of the country. There also are several gardens using high tunnels to extend the growing season.
Currently, there are over 1,400 People’s Gardens, with locations in all 50 states, three U.S. territories and nine foreign countries. The main sites for these people’s gardens are at faith-based centers, on federal leased or owned property, at schools and other locations within the community.
As the holiday season approaches, it is important to remember those in need. People’s Gardens are a great way to unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire locally-led solutions to challenges facing our country.
### About United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Mission Statement
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, and related issues based on sound public policy, the best available science, and efficient management.
The USDA want to be recognized as a dynamic organization that is able to efficiently provide the integrated program delivery needed to lead a rapidly evolving food and agriculture system.
Strategic Plan Framework
USDA has created a strategic plan to implement its vision. The framework of this plan depends on these key activities: expanding markets for agricultural products and support international economic development, further developing alternative markets for agricultural products and activities, providing financing needed to help expand job opportunities and improve housing, utilities and infrastructure in rural America, enhancing food safety by taking steps to reduce the prevalence of foodborne hazards from farm to table, improving nutrition and health by providing food assistance and nutrition education and promotion, and managing and protecting America’s public and private lands working cooperatively with other levels of government and the private sector.
USDA Celebrates 150 Years
In 2012, USDA will commemorate and celebrate the 150th anniversary of our founding in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an act of Congress establishing the United States Department of Agriculture.
Two and one-half years later, in what would be his final annual message to the Congress, Lincoln called USDA “The People’s Department.” At that time, about half of all Americans lived on farms, compared with about 2 percent today. But through our work on food, agriculture, economic development, science, natural resource conservation and a host of issues, USDA still fulfills Lincoln’s vision – touching the lives of every American, every day.
“As we commemorate 150 years of accomplishments, USDA is learning from past experiences and looking to the future. In the years to come, we must help address the changing needs of agriculture and rural America. We must continue to help provide a safe, ample food supply for our nation and the world. To meet those goals, we are working to make USDA a more modern and effective service provider and to deliver the best possible results for all of the American people.”
by Livia Marqués
Director of the People’s Garden Initiative
* The above story is adapted from materials provided by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)