Food bank hopes you’ll share your garden bounty

Maybe, if you’re like me, the sun we saw in Whatcom County this April and May has you convinced that this is the year to try full-sized tomatoes in your backyard garden. Maybe the heat will continue and your wheelbarrow will groan under the weight of your eggplant harvest. Or maybe, unlike most sun-starved gardeners in Whatcom County, you’re making special shade preparations so that your lettuce and cilantro don’t bolt before harvest time comes.

One thing that is consistent is that Northwesterners love to garden, and most gardeners grow a bit more than they can use. As agricultural programs coordinator for Bellingham Food Bank, Whatcom County’s largest hunger relief agency, it’s my privilege to ask you to donate any excess you may have — even your giant zucchini. We’ll use it all.

Victory Garden donations are crucial in our work to help every resident of Whatcom County have access to fresh and healthy food.

In Eleanor Roosevelt’s day, growing food at home to help our troops win WWII was called Victory Gardening, and we’re borrowing a page from the history books to help communicate the idea that food banks want and need donations of fresh and healthy food as much as we’re grateful to receive staple items like pasta, rice and beans.

Each month, Bellingham Food Bank serves more than 12,000 clients through our free grocery program. That’s one in five residents of Bellingham, and more than 50 percent of the people we serve are seniors, children and other vulnerable members of our community. Numbers are the same for the rest of Whatcom County and the need served by food banks located in each smaller city. For many households having a hard time making ends meet, a food bank may be the only source of fresh produce. And summer harvest time — when you might have an extra head of cabbage or a few summer squash needing a home — is also when struggling families with kids have an even tougher job making up for the meals those kids usually would eat at school.

One head of cabbage at a time, your home garden donations add up to between 40,000 pounds and 60,000 pounds of produce each year. Combined with our Small Potatoes Gleaning Project, our garden project, and our work to buy fresh produce directly from local farms, this means that Victory Garden donations are crucial in our work to help every resident of Whatcom County have access to fresh and healthy food.

No matter what your garden ambitions may be for this coming year, I wish you a very satisfying season of raising fresh and healthy food for your household and invite you to share whatever bounty you may have with hunger relief organizations near you. It means so much.

Max Morange is agricultural programs coordinator at Bellingham Food Bank.

How to help

Seeds: Don’t have all the seeds you need? We’ve got a rack full of free Victory Garden seeds at our receiving door located at the back of Bellingham Food Bank, 1824 Ellis St. open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is also where you can bring your extras later in the summer.

Signs: Want a yard sign to promote what you’re doing and help us spread the message that the food bank wants your extra produce? We’ve got those too; drop on by the food bank and pick one up or just get in touch with Bellingham Food Bank’s agricultural programs at glean@bellinghamfoodbank.org.

Guide: Perhaps you’re new to gardening but would like to try it out this year with your family, your friends, or your church group? Bellingham Food Bank’s garden project has developed a growing guide with information on how to start your own garden. It’s available in English and Spanish for free on our website, bellinghamfoodbank.org.