Food for Thought

Guest Post by Pattie Baker, Author of “Food for My Daughters
It had been a weedy, unloved, unused piece of land a little more than two years ago, and now the largest community garden in my county flourishes there, 20% of which is dedicated to donations to a local food pantry directly across the street from the park in which the garden is located.  Our first donation came just six weeks after the garden opened, and it consisted of three little bags of lettuce leaves.  I was so proud of it, until I went to deliver it to the church where the food pantry is held each Wednesday.  The line of people in need wrapped around the building.  Our meager donation embarrassed me, although the words of Mother Teresarang in my head: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”  And we would feed three that day.

By Thanksgiving that first year, just a few weeks later, we were up to maybe eight bags of lettuces.  Progress, yes, but now for the holidays the crowd was three times as big as usual.  Our small donation felt like nothing.  But “if you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one” rang in my head.  And we would feed eight that day.

A year later, we had a wheelbarrow full of fresh food to donate–far more than the year before, and a significant addition to the more than 1,000 pounds of fresh food we had donated that year.  We also had a new, small garden right there at the church from which the food pantry clients themselves harvested each week, usually about 10-20 families, even though it never seemed as if there would be enough and every week there was.  A phenomenon, or perhaps a miracle, depending on what you believe.

This third year, over a hundred pounds of fresh food was harvested from the community garden Thanksgiving week by a dedicated team of volunteers that works tirelessly to grow this effort, bringing the total amount of food donated since the garden opened to over two tons.  Plus, many families-in-need harvested at the food pantry garden the following day, and, once again, no one left empty-handed.  Yet…

It nagged at me.  Why should people who clearly appreciate this fresh food be hungry when the simple tools of growing food such as space and sun abound in my climate? From talking with the food pantry clients during these weekly harvests (somehow muddling between languages) I know that many of them live in apartment complexes and have actually tried to grow pots and pots of food but the apartment management removes the plants.  I know many of their children attend my community’s schools so my friends and I have helped start and rejuvenate school gardens and we recently ensured that a middle school group could access the community garden itself for a weekly hands-on learning experience.  Yet despite what Mother Teresa says, in my heart of hearts, I know I am capable of doing more.  I keep asking myself how I can plant a seed that grows bigger, wider, farther, deeper.

I dug in an urban farm one day with my friend, Fred Conrad, who is the Atlanta Community Food Bank liaison to more than 150 community gardens in the metro-Atlanta area, and I asked him how I could help, using my professional writing skills.  He suggested I encourage more people to participate in the national Plant a Row for the Hungry effort, where you grow food to donate to your local food pantry.  I then wrote a six-week series titled Operation Plant a Row 2012, and I am now using this generous opportunity provided to me by Better World Books to share what I hope you find to be an inspiring collection of tips and suggestions for digging in where you live.

See the entire series of articles on the bottom of my blog at, where you’ll meet my friends Fred, Ann, Tracy, Shawn, Sally, David, Bob, Libby, and more.  And perhaps you’ll start looking at the world a little differently–or at least that unused patch of earth beside your house or at your public park or church or school or corporate campus.  And maybe you will want to grow a little something and donate food to feed just one person (as Mother Teresa suggests) each week as well.  Maybe you will join me and my friends and all the others who are doing this already, and together we can make a bigger difference.  Together, we can grow not just food, but community and knowledge as well so that our efforts are sustainable.

The new Plant a Row we created at the food pantry garden, which I didn’t expect to produce food for months yet, was harvested for the first time this week, by those in need, for Thanksgiving.  Yes, miracles do happen.  And I believe in them.

Do you have a community garden? Have any great book recommendations to help readers start one? Please share your comments below.

*Note* The above blog post is a guest blog from our friend Pattie, the author of “Food for My Daughters.” This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Pattie, you inspire us!

Photo: Bubblevews


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