Uproot your lawn to help feed the hungry

(This is a “My Turn” article written by club member, Cheryl Bourassa, for the Concord Monitor. We have reprinted it here with her permission. Thanks Cheryl!)

Let us make this the summer of local produce for all. Lately, the news has been filled with stories of food pantries that are under-stocked and heavily used. Our recent “Concord Reads” book, Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, reminds us that the best way to replenish those shelves is with locally grown food. Last summer, Concord’s Unitarian Universalist Church pioneered a project that points to a way to achieve the goal of more local produce for all, regardless of the ability to pay for that privilege.

In the fall of 2007, a group of congregants at the church explored the idea of opening a new food pantry. Quickly, we were confronted with the reality that there simply isn’t enough food to adequately stock the pantries already in existence. The need was not for another distribution center; what our community needed was more food.

We began brainstorming ways that the church could contribute more to the food stream.

Kingsolver’s book helped to shape our thinking: We didn’t need to increase the number of canned goods going to food pantries; we needed to add local produce.

We realized the solution was right under foot. We have a lovely, south-facing, gently sloping front lawn.

Let’s face it: Lawns can be attractive, but they consume resources and return nothing. We decided to tear up a good-size portion of our lawn and replace it with a “give-away garden.”

All through the growing season, members of the church dug, planted, watered, weeded and harvested. We were able to share our produce with local pantries, as well as with the refugee resettlement program through Lutheran Social Services. We brought box after box of organic produce to the Merrimack Valley Day Care program, helping provide a healthy lunch or snack to its children.

Soon, we’ll be back at work. I extend an invitation to other religious institutions to consider joining us in this project. If you have even a small patch of sunny lawn, why not replace it with a garden? Help us make this summer one that truly does provide local produce for all.

For more information about the garden at the Unitarian Universalist Church, visit their UU Garden Blog

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