Iím one of the lucky ones.
I have a farm stand just a mile or so from my house, a few abundantly stocked grocery stores within easy access, transportation to get me there and money to spend.
Fresh fruits and vegetables arenít a luxury for me. Theyíre staples in my diet.
Thatís not true for everyone, though.
For some people, meager resources just donít stretch far enough to cover produce. Because fresh fruits and vegetables are relatively expensive, people with limited incomes often pass them up in favor of foods that are cheaper and more filling but less nutritious, said Kat Pestian, communications coordinator for the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
Even if they can afford produce, those folks may have difficulty finding it in their neighborhoods. Especially in urban areas, fast-food restaurants and convenience stores far outnumber grocery stores and farmers markets.
But Iím counting on my fellow gardeners to change that.
If you grow food, you can participate in Plant a Row for the Hungry, a program that encourages backyard gardeners to share their bounty with people in need. The program is administered by the Garden Writers Association and coordinated locally by the Beacon Journal and the food bank.
The premise is simple: You plant an extra row in your garden, dedicated to hunger relief. When harvest time comes, you take the fruits or vegetables produced by that row to one of five drop-off sites around Summit County.
The food bank will pick up your donation and distribute the food to agencies in our area that run food pantries, community meals and other hunger-relief programs.
While those agencies pay a modest fee for much of the food they get from the food bank, fresh produce donated through Plant a Row is given to them for free, Pestian said. So you can be assured that your donation is going right to the people who need it.
Iíve been told that demand for those fresh fruits and vegetables is strong. Fresh produce is snapped up almost as soon as itís made available.
The food bank has been creative about helping its client agencies use that produce, too. Recently it brought in chef Brendan Meeker to demonstrate how to prepare less common foods, such as kale and avocados.
You donít need to feel obligated to make a big donation. Even a few peppers or a bag of beans is appreciated. As Pestian said, ďEvery little bit helps.Ē
It all adds up. Last year, local Plant a Row donors gave enough produce to the food bank to supply 11,555 meals.
The best vegetables to grow are those that have a long shelf life and donít bruise easily, such as cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, onions, potatoes, eggplant, carrots, green beans and peppers.
The drop-off sites open today and will remain open till fall. Theyíre at these locations:
ē?Crown Point Ecology Center, 3220 Ira Road, Bath Township. Drop-off times: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
ē?Stow administrative offices, 3760 Darrow Road. Drop off anytime.
ē?Stow Community Garden, 5070 Stow Road. Drop-off times: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
ē?Canton Road Garden Center, 1881 Canton Road, Springfield Township. Drop-off times: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.
ē?Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, 350 Opportunity Parkway, Akron. Please call 330-535-6900 to schedule an appointment to drop off food between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.
Those drop-off sites will also be publicized each Saturday, right here in the Beacon Journalís Home section.
Please think about participating in Plant a Row for the Hungry. While youíre feeding some of your neighbors, youíll be feeding your soul.
Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also become a fan on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/mbbreck, follow her on Twitter @MBBreckenridge and read her blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/mary-beth.