Bay Bridge Cove’s Community Garden is Producing Change
During the pandemic, community gardens have seen a resurgence. Echoing the days when previous generations tended Victory Gardens to bolster local food resources stretched thin by war, community gardens have sprung up all over Maryland, providing nutritious produce as well as a number of other benefits to the community.
Keenly aware of the role food plays in the health of not only individuals, but our entire state, the Maryland Food Bank is committed to ensuring everyone has consistent access to nutritious food. We see community gardens as a vital way to strengthen communities by supporting local food systems, reducing our environmental impact, and helping educate Marylanders about the importance of a healthy diet.
“The connections that people make with food have such a strong influence on their eating habits,” said MFB’s Director of Nutrition Kate Long. “If we can engage people through education about how growing and providing food locally through community gardens can make a significant positive impact in their neighborhood, then it’s really a victory for all Marylanders.”
Community gardens are a creative and impactful way to help people who are experiencing food insecurity. This Hunger Action Month, one community is coming together to make sure their neighbors have enough to eat.
Seeding by Example
On Kent Island, residents at Bay Bridge Cove are cultivating care for their neighbors in need by regularly donating the harvest from their “food bank garden” to two Maryland Food Bank Network Partners – Haven Ministries in Queenstown and Mother of Sorrows in Centreville.
Susan Cashman, who recently moved into the recently built 55+ community in Stevensville, Md., is also the co-owner of Anago of Baltimore, which provides cleaning services to the Maryland Food Bank’s main headquarters in Halethorpe. And in an almost text-book definition of “right place, right time,” Cashman was thrilled to learn from her new neighbor Larry Lorenzo that not only did Bay Bridge Cove have a community garden, but they were interested in supporting the local area by sharing the plot’s bounty.
“Because I have experience with and have seen the good work of the Maryland Food Bank first-hand, I volunteered to take over the garden, and help make Larry’s vision a reality,” Cashman said.
She immediately got to work making sure the garden would actually come to fruition and determining where to donate their harvests.
Cashman was blown away by the response from her neighbors, with more than 20 people offering everything from plants they had grown from seeds to funds for purchasing additional seedlings to ensure a variety of vegetables. But most importantly, they offered their time and energy to help maintain the garden.
“It’s been a labor of love for my community, “Cashman explained. “We have a schedule to make sure that somebody goes in the morning and waters, and someone checks up at night – everyone is completely committed to the food bank garden.”
Helping Feed Their Neighbors in Need
Each week during the growing season, Susan’s husband Mark gathers the fresh produce and delivers it to Mother of Sorrows and Haven Ministries, adding to the organizations’ food pantry offerings.
Christine Perkins, the Food Pantry Director at Haven Ministries, is able to help nearly 100 people in her community each month with the fresh bounty they receive from the partnership with Bay Bridge Cove.
“We’ve been getting weekly donations of zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, cucumbers – really good stuff that folks here appreciate – food costs are surely going up!” said Perkins. “And having it delivered really makes a difference. I don’t have to worry about finding volunteers before the produce goes bad.”
According to Perkins, there’s an unexpected side benefit to the partnership: community building.
“There was one person who came back after receiving food because she didn’t know what kind of squash she had received – but people pitched in, telling her how to prepare it, sharing recipes – I just don’t think I’ve seen people banding together before like that,” she said.
“There’s a lot of friendships forming for sure. Everyone is really united in making this partnership works and is getting food to people. And it’s nice to be able to share some of the feedback from the food pantries with everyone here.”
As part of our refreshed strategic plan, we’re making a conscious effort to promote and invest in local food system sustainability, even maintaining an Education Garden behind MFB’s warehouse in Halethorpe. And in our continuing efforts to help Maryland recover from the pandemic, we’ll work to advance more partnerships that strengthen local food systems and communities.
But while Hunger Action Month is a great time to celebrate the residents at Bay Bridge Cove taking action in their community, there are still up to two million Marylanders who may face hunger this year. Learn about some of the ways you can pitch in and help feed your neighbors in need.
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