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Digging It – Growing Your Own Food

 

I love supporting local farmers as much as the next girl, but there’s nothing quite like digging your hands into the dirt and growing your own food.

Naturally, the biggest benefit of growing your own food is, well, the food itself.

But a side bonus to gardening is the sense of empowerment and pride you feel after putting in the time and energy necessary to grow something of your own.

As a society, food brings us together. We socialize over food, whether we’re at simple family dinners or massive gala events. Gardening too, is a great way to cultivate friendships and bring family together.

I knew that growing food could be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. But I also quickly learned that it can also be a labor intensive process!

I had never planted a garden until one spring a few years back. I was craving the tastiness of homegrown veggies, so I decided to do some research and start planting.

Given the size of my backyard, I soon discovered that container gardening was more feasible for me.  I bought my containers and chose vegetable plants that can grow in a confined space. Then, I started paying attention to the spots in the yard that offered the best sunlight.

I researched soil, learned about the tools I needed to make sure my plants had the proper amount of support, and began watering. In no time, I was watching tomatoes and peppers grow!

Type of Plants

The first step to gardening is to figure out what you want to grow and where and how to grow it.  Things to consider:

  • Factor in the soil and space in your planting area, and choose plants accordingly.
  • Shade or direct sunlight? Some plants don’t need a lot of sun, while others will not thrive without amble amounts of golden rays.
  • How many plants do you need? What’s the typical yield? Some vegetables and fruits grow in abundance and you only need to grow a few plants, while others require growing multiple plants to make it worth your while.
  • When do you plant? Some plants must be planted in early spring; while others can wait until early fall. Research planting schedules to find the optimum time for planting each variety of veggie. http://www.veseys.com/us/en/learn/reference/plantingchart
  • Consult the Old Farmer’s Almanac online for lots of useful information:http://www.almanac.com/plants/type/vegetable
  • Should you plant in the ground or in containers? This depends on the amount of space you have available and the type of soil in your yard.
  • Irrigation. Make sure your hose is in close proximity to your plants. Also consider using a timed sprinkler to keep plants watered in the heat of summer.

Container Gardening

In container gardening, soil needs to be well aerated and well drained for proper plant growth.  I made sure my pots had holes in the bottom and I also lined the base of the pot with river rocks.

Never purchase garden soil by itself, because when you put it in a container both drainage and aeration are severely impeded.  Instead, place various things like peat, bark or coir fiber in the container. Research the best type of soil to grow the vegetable you’re planting.

Support is also vital in container gardening to ensure your plants grow properly and don’t break.  I grew tomatoes and peppers and bought tomato cages that allowed the plants to grow vertically.  I also tied sections of the plant to the cage to provide further guidance and support.  Used panty hose is a great material for this project.

Since I succeeded at container gardening, I am currently researching gardening tips on planting in the ground.  Things to consider specifically for gardening in the ground:

  • How much space do you need between plants?
  • What mechanisms do you need to keep animals out of your vegetation?
  • How will you till the soil?

I hope the above information provided a little bit of guidance and that you are energized to get out there and grow your own food.  Happy gardening!

Andrea Hale
Andrea Hale is the IL CSFP/SNAP Coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Agency Conference 2013

Agency Conference

Yesterday, more than 200 directors and staff from many of the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s 514 partner agencies participated in our annual conference.

Most of the Foodbank’s partner agencies are operated solely by dedicated volunteers, so this annual event gives these individuals the chance to learn about new ideas and best practices for running a nonprofit feeding program.

Representatives from our partner soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters and senior feeding programs attended educational sessions on:

  • Obama Care, the Affordable Care Act – How will it affect low-income families?
  • Social media – How can nonprofits make the most of social networking platforms?
  • The Farm Bill – How will it affect all Americans?
  • Illinois and Missouri USDA Training – Topics included USDA food distribution and discrimination policies.
  • SNAP Outreach and Advocacy – Ideas on ways to maximize participation in the food stamp program.
  • Retail Pickup Program – Guidelines for accepting food donated by retailers.
  • Raising Food and Funds – Information on best practices in food and fundraising.

Former Missouri Senator Joan Bray addressed the group just before lunch, presenting a keynote speech on the state of government in Missouri, and anticipated changes in nonprofit laws.

Jim Braun, partner with EMD Consulting Group, gave a compelling talk about the importance of investing in succession planning to ensure that nonprofits continue to thrive even during changes in management.

Chef David Frattini, chef instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in St. Louis, performed a cooking demonstration of a meal that was both healthy and affordable. Using many foods commonly donated to the Foodbank, Frattini prepared a minestrone soup.

To learn more the sessions offered to agencies yesterday, please view the following presentations.

S.N.A.P. Outreach Illinois

S.N.A.P. Outreach Missouri

Foods and Funds

USDA Training Illinois

Farm Bill and SNAP

Succession Planning

TEFAP Civil Rights

Retail Store Donation Program

Socially Necessary

Setting Up Your Agency’s Facebook Page

Federal Health Reform 2013

Bethany Prange
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

When Disaster Strikes

Chris Bovance Disaster Relief

 

Spring in St. Louis means two things – the Cardinals return to Busch Stadium and inclement weather.  Last week, we experienced both.  The Cards had their home opener against the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, April 8 and the town of Hazelwood was ravaged by a tornado on Wednesday, April 10.

When disasters strike, the St. Louis Area Foodbank steps in to help out. Sometimes it’s a national crisis like 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, or the Joplin tornado.  Sometimes natural disasters hit close to home like the flood of ‘93, the Bridgeton tornado or the storms that hit Hazelwood last week.  Whenever and wherever people are in need of food and other clean-up supplies, we strive to be there to help.  We feel an even greater responsibility when disasters hit close to home.  After all, these are the communities that help us feed families in need year round.

When the storm struck the Hazelwood community on April 10, 2013, we delivered more than 5,600 pounds of product to the Learning Center in Hazelwood to aid in their relief efforts.

Today, we loaded a truck with nearly 9,500 pounds of fresh drinking water, fresh apples and hand sanitizer. Deacon Arstell Jones of Good News Baptist Church Food Pantry will deliver those items to the Hazelwood Community Center where volunteers will hand it out to those affected by the storm.

Next April, fans of the Cardinals can count on their return to St. Louis and if an area community gets hit with severe weather, citizens can count on the St. Louis Area Foodbank to help them with food and other needed supplies during their recovery efforts.

Update: On April, 18th we sent nearly 36,096 pounds of fresh drinking water and fresh apples to Clarksville, MO City Hall at the request of Missouri SEMA (State Emergency Management Agency). Clarksville, MO is in Pike County and within the St. Louis Area Foodbank’s service territory.

    Ryan Farmer is the communications manager at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

 

Widespread Panic – Music Fans Feeding Families in Need

“Oh children from my brood they come and bring me food.”
– “Blue Indian” by Widespread Panic

The band Widespread Panic first began doing food drives at their concerts in 1999 with the fan-based organization Panic Fans for Food.

Since then, the band has been hosting food and funds drives at select shows on their tour and engaging their fans to get involved. Several fans heard about this week’s drive through Widespread Panic’s e-newsletter.

In October 2011, the fans of Widespread Panic generously donated food and funds that was the equivalent of 866 meals!

This year, fans attending the April 9 & 10, 2013 concerts donated $196.45 and 211 pounds of food to the St. Louis Area Foodbank! That will help provide 906 meals for the area’s hungry.

Everyone that made a donation was entered to win 3-D lenticular poster. Congratulations to the big winner – J. McDermott!

 

 

 

cupcakes

For more photos from the concert, please visit: http://widespreadpanic.com/photos/4-10-2013-st-louis-missouri

 

Patrick Delhougne is the development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

 

Help us win a $45,000 grant from the Walmart Fighting Hunger Together campaign.

A FEW CLICKS =
180,000 MEALS
BUT ONLY IF YOU
GO VOTE
HELP US WIN A $45,000 WALMART FIGHTING HUNGER TOGETHER GRANT
Go To > StlFoodbank.org/ClickForACause

Thank you for your past support of the St. Louis Area Foodbank. We could not do what we do without the fantastic support of the St. Louis community!

So today, we’d like to ask you for one more small favor. For the month of April, the St. Louis Area Foodbank will be participating in a Facebook voting competition to win a $45,000 grant from the Walmart Fighting Hunger Together campaign.

We will be competing against 300 other hunger relief organizations from across the country. Winning this grant would help us provide an additional 180,000 meals for hungry families throughout the bi-state region.

We believe we can win,
but we need your HELP!

Facebook users can vote ONCE A DAY, EVERY DAY – April 1 through April 30. Just by clicking VOTE, you’ll be giving us the chance to feed thousands of families in need in our region.

Today, please go to this link www.STLFoodbank.org/ClickForACause to vote for the Foodbank. If possible, please go back every day and vote.

We’d also encourage you to forward this email to friends, family, colleagues and Facebook contacts.

Thank you in advance for your help!
We truly appreciate it!
 

Allison Jones
Allison Jones is the website and design coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

 

Iron Fork 2013

Iron Fork raised $4,250 for the St. Louis Area Foodbank!

We are excited to announce that The Riverfront Times’ Iron Fork event was a huge succes this year and sold out! The event, held for the 7th consecutive year, benefited the St. Louis Area Foodbank and was attended by almost 2,000 people.

 

 

 

cupcakes

 

 

 

Check out more pictures on our Facebook page!

 

Allison Jones
Allison Jones is the website and design coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

 

34,500 Fresh Eggs – An Eggceptional Donation

EGGS

When I was a kid, I spent half of my time on a family farm.

Nearly every morning, I would walk out to the chicken coop with my bucket in tow.  I’d carefully reach into the straw and pull out the brown eggs the hens laid the day before.

On a farm with chickens, fresh eggs are abundant.

At Easter, we’d have dozens of hard-boiled eggs to dye and decorate. If we wanted to bake a cake, we had the eggs to make the batter. If we wanted scrambled eggs for breakfast, sure, no problem.

In fact, it wasn’t until I was a city-dwelling adult that I realized just how many savory dishes and desserts require fresh eggs.  By that point, I no longer had access to the “free” eggs from the coop.

These days, if I want eggs in my fridge, I have to buy them at the store. I seldom remember to put them on the grocery list, so on many a night, I find myself knocking on a neighbor’s door, hoping to borrow an egg so I can finish supper.

Fortunately for clients of the St. Louis Area Foodbank, they won’t need to buy or borrow eggs for quite awhile.

Today, Rose Acre Farms of St. Louis donated 34,500 eggs to the St. Louis Area Foodbank. For families in need, eggs are a sought-after commodity.

Not only are they a required ingredient for many meals, but eggs on their own are a source of high-quality protein and other vital nutrients.

According to the USDA, one large egg delivers six grams of protein and 13 essential nutrients such as choline, folate, iron and zinc. Additionally, the USDA concluded in 2011 that the average amount of cholesterol was 14 percent lower and vitamin D content was 64 percent higher than previously thought.

In the bi-state region, one in eight adults struggles with food insecurity. For children, the statistics are even more daunting – one in four children in the Foodbank’s 26-county service territory deal with hunger on a regular basis.

“Rose Acre is a fifth-generation family business, and we take pride in giving back to our local community,” stated Bob Niewedde, inventory control director of Rose Acre Farms.

For six years, the United Egg Producers have been organizing a nationwide effort to give food insecure families a helping hand.

U. S. egg farmers are donating nearly nine million fresh eggs this year, bringing the total number of fresh eggs donated by egg farmers since 2008 to 69 million.

Consumers can participate in the nationwide effort by going towww.facebook.com/UEPCertified and pledging to buy UEP-certified eggs. For every pledge received, United Egg Producers will donate one carton of eggs to a local food assistance organization.

 

Bethany Prange
Bethany Prange is the communications coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.