"Beet" Hunger with your own Backyard Garden!

IFS_beet-hunger_d03September is Hunger Action Month. Learn how one young woman who works with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's gardening program in Parrish Manor is taking action to help BEET HUNGER in her community by teaching her neighbors how to grow fresh, healthy food in their own backyards.   Kiara Sanders has always loved to draw. Pencil and ink sketches of people are her favorite pursuits,  but  she credits gardening for giving her  the confidence and the problem-solving skills required to pursue a college degree in art education.   “Although art and gardening  are different, they both require learning technical skills.”

Kiara, 21, has lived with her family in Parrish Manor, a friendly, tree-lined low-income housing neighborhood in rural Wake county, for more than half her life. Growing up poor and with no car, her mother and grandmother depended on food stamps and family members to get enough to eat.

“We never knew when we might have access to a car, so we often got too much fresh food that would go bad before we had time to cook it all.”

In the past year, Kiara has participated in IFFS’s Urban Ag Program as a paid intern learning how to grow food in her neighborhood.   Urban Ag educators Maurice Small and Lara Khalil teach a small cadre of part –time interns how to compost , build beds, mulch, and grow food as a means of feeding themselves.  The goal of IFFS’s urban ag training is to chip away at the root causes of hunger:  lack of access to fresh, healthy food and lack of income to buy food.

Beyond agricultural skills, Kiara says she has learned about leadership, “… how to function within a team; how to get organized; how to settle disputes and decide what to do when things don’t go as planned. “

By going door to door to drum up interest in the project, Kiara says she learned to overcome fear of social interaction,  and to listen to what her neighbors needed.

“We learned that the community garden was too far away in the back of the property,”  says Kiara. “ So we came up with the idea of backyard gardens because they are more convenient.  We can spend our time teaching  people who really are committed to doing the work, in their own backyards.”

Kiara and her fellow interns grew basil, peppers, cucumbers, and watermelon this summer in an area that used to be a “jungle of weeds” before the Urban Ag training began.  In the fall, they plan to have their own backyard gardens sprouting winter crops.  Naming the project “Raise the Roots”, they built a demonstration bed next to  Parrish Manor’s centrally located office and have begun marketing the idea through signage, flyers, and newsletters.  They hope their marketing efforts pay off by the spring with at least a dozen more neighbors joining the project.

“Not only can you eat better, you’ll learn responsibility and confidence by growing food.  If I can turn a jungle of weeds into all this produce, it shows that with a team, I can do anything!”…even  pursue that dream of getting a degree in art education!

You can help BEET hunger, too, by donating today, or you can help sustain programs like this one by becoming a monthly Ground Level Giver! Already have a backyard, community, or school garden? Consider donating some of what you grow through Plant a Row for the Hungry! Only by working together can we truly end hunger!