The 2012 Giving Gardens for St. Susan Center resulted in 7,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables being given to the center.
"We are thrilled that the first year of the Giving Garden program resulted in such a large amount of fresh produce being donated to our kitchen," said Sue Colwell, St. Susan Center executive director. "This produce was either used immediately in our meals, shared with our guests or was preserved to use throughout the winter months."
St. Susan Center received funding for the start-up cost of the Giving Garden project from the state Department of Health's Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play grant, which is held locally by the Chautauqua County Health Network.
"When we first learned about the Giving Garden concept, we knew that this was something that fit exactly into our grant objective of increasing access to healthy foods," said Kerry Mihalko, Healthy Food Consultant for Creating Healthy Places.
St. Susan Center is ready to expand the Giving Garden project in 2013. Now that food processing equipment and gardening tools are in place, increasing the number of volunteer gardeners is the focus of the program this year.
"We had a wonderful group of about 15 volunteers that grew and donated produce last year. They did a fantastic job. Now that we know how the program works, we are ready to increase the number of volunteer gardeners that we accept. Our goal is to have enough produce donated to fill our freezers so our guests can have nutritious produce all year long," Colwell said.
A Giving Garden can be as large or small as the gardener would like. Last year some Giving Garden volunteers grew tomatoes in containers, while others planted extra rows in their own gardens for St. Susan Center. The Giving Garden project provides seeds, seedlings, containers, soil and even some tools. The volunteer gardeners are responsible for planting, watering, weeding, harvesting and delivering the produce to the center, 31 Water St., Jamestown.
The 2013 Giving Gardens for St. Susan Center initiative will kick off May 1 with a volunteer organizational meeting. Dinner will be served at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting will begin at 6 p.m. To find out more about becoming a volunteer gardener, call Woody at St. Susan Center, 664-2253, ext. 2.