By Rachel McGrath
Monday, August 2, 2010
Recipients of food donations from Ventura County’s regional food bank FOOD Share have taken advantage of thousands of pounds of fresh produce during the past year thanks to the efforts of local gardeners, schools and community groups.
More than 65,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables have been donated through the Garden Share program inaugurated last spring, FOOD Share officials said recently.
“It’s very important,” said Jeanne Benitez, FOOD Share’s development manager. “This gives people access to those fresh fruits and vegetables they desperately need, especially the kids who need this nutrition.”
The Garden Share program currently has 193 community garden partners including churches, commercial growers, schools and individuals.
FOOD Share keeps a log of how much fresh produce is donated by each individual or organization as part of a Pounds for Produce contest sponsored by Oxnard-based organic recycler and premium soil manufacturer Agromin.
Those who donate the most amount of produce receive free soil amendments equal to the weight of the donated fruits and vegetables.
“Winners receive soil made from locally recycled green materials, which helps Ventura County become a more sustainable community,” Agromin CEO Bill Camarillo said.
The winner in the school competition is the special-needs class at Las Colinas Middle School in Camarillo, which donated the most produce of any school, including 751 pounds of citrus, 50 pounds of celery, 40 pounds of onions, 30 pounds of potatoes, and 20 pounds of broccoli.
Dianne Polen, the school’s Life Lab coordinator, says the produce was grown by 19 special-needs students with the help of six student aides and three teacher’s aides, working in the garden for one hour a day, three days a week.
“It teaches them to work with their hands, to eat healthy and to give back to the community,” Polen said. “It just touches your heart when you see what they get out of it.”
Other winners in the Pounds for Produce contest include West Coast Nursery in Somis, which contributed 314 pounds of heirloom tomatoes, and the Ventura County Area Agency on Aging Senior Nutrition Garden, which donated 29,000 tomatoes from the garden at the Juvenile Justice Complex on Vineyard Avenue in El Rio. Michael Laroche from Somis was the individual gardener who donated the most, contributing 1,795 pounds of citrus.
The Garden Share program was created to inspire the local community to donate fresh produce to supplement the food FOOD Share gives out each month to more than 54,000 people across Ventura County, including low-income seniors and children.
The program offers participants free seeds and discount coupons for soil and fruit trees as well as tips on how to grow fruits and vegetables.
“It’s educating people we are feeding on how to grow their own food and teaching families a better way of eating,” Benitez said. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible and as inexpensive as possible for people to grow their own food.”
For more information about the Garden Share program, go to http://www.foodshare.com and click on the Garden Share logo.
© 2010 Scripps Newspaper Group — Online
Labels: Agromin; Pounds for Produce, community garden, FOOD Share, Garden Share, Las Colinas Middle School, school garden, Ventura County