In a new endeavor, the Greene County ARC food pantry is growing vegetables to include in its offerings. Currently, the food pantry has only a single, experimental plot to test the growth of different types of tomatoes and garden peppers. PARKER JONES | JEFFERSON HERALD PHOTOSA variety of tomatoes are being grown in the Greene County ARC’s new garden plot, including this heirloom tomato plant.

EAT YOUR VEGGIES

Food pantry growing its own vegetables to meet demand

By PARKER JONES For The Jefferson Herald

The Greene County Christian Action Resource Center, or ARC, has long been providing food, clothing and household items for people in the Jefferson area. Now, the food pantry is beginning a new endeavor to provide fresh, nutritious vegetables for its patrons — by growing its own.

After moving to a larger location in 2018 at 1006 N. Vine St. in Jefferson because of unexpected growth in its number of clients, ARC staff members found that their supply of donated vegetables was being picked off of shelves faster than ever before.

There’s a high demand for fresh vegetables and other produce from visitors to the food pantry, said Shirley Haupert, director of the ARC food pantry — so she and her staff worked to create a healthy, sustainable solution.

“We noticed that people really enjoy fresh vegetables — it takes a little bit of work, and some people don’t have the space to grow their own,” Haupert said.

Currently, the food pantry has a single, 8-by-4-foot plot to test the growth of different types of tomatoes and garden peppers, for a total of 32 square feet of usable garden space. Haupert has dubbed the small plot “the salsa bed” and plans to teach patrons how to create fresh salsa using vegetables grown at the food pantry once the garden’s yield is successful and sizable.

The vegetable plants still are in their early stages and won’t be ready to harvest for at least another few weeks. 

Haupert emphasized that the plot is experimental, but she hopes that it will succeed with the help of ARC volunteers.

If the small crop is successful and tending to it isn’t too time-consuming, Haupert said the food pantry plans to add more plots and grow other foods like onions, lettuce, carrots and more in future seasons to accommodate the high demand for fresh produce.

In addition to the garden plot, the Greene County ARC continuously seeks donations of produce and other perishable food items to provide more variety in nutrition for its clients.

Patrons can visit the food pantry once a month to select food items and other household necessities they need, and can call 515-386-8262 to learn about the ARC’s eligibility requirements. Interested donors can call the same number to find out how they can donate items or money.

Haupert said she thinks the addition of the veggie plot will be a positive one for the food pantry.

“Vegetables are healthy,” she said. “They’re good for (our clients); they’re good for everyone.”

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