Now that spring is so gratefully upon us (though as I write this, it is 38 degrees!), it signals the first plantings in the Bronxville Giving Garden which is such an uplifting sign of a new season.
Started in 2016, with the first harvest in the spring of 2017, our garden is unique in that unlike most other community gardens, we didn’t parcel out to residents to farm a family crop, rather dedicated the entire garden to providing fresh, organic vegetables and herbs to some of our neighbors in need, hence the name, The Giving Garden.
On average, 400 to 600 pounds of organic, just picked vegetables including several varieties of tomatoes and lettuces, scallions, cucumbers, peppers, beans, eggplant, carrots, zucchini and radishes are cultivated each season. In addition, we have a special herb garden that helps to flavor salads, stews and soups and we have grown chives, thyme, basil, parsley, mint, dill, rosemary and oregano. Lavender and sunflowers are interspersed as pollinators with marigolds strategically placed as pest controls.
All of the vegetables and herbs cultivated are delivered directly to the Eastchester Community Action Program in Tuckahoe and the CSA Soup Kitchen in Mount Vernon after developing these relationships at our first harvest in 2017.
Thanks to our workhorse farmers, we never missed a beat during the pandemic as needs only escalated as ECAP in Tuckahoe increased their food pantry days from 2 to 3 soon after the start of the pandemic. It is still quite a memory as we handed off the harvest to National Guard soldiers who were assisting in food deliveries.
Regrettably, the Mount Vernon soup kitchen was shut down during the pandemic so we directed all our harvest to Tuckahoe. Without a reliable and knowledgeable core of volunteers who tend to the garden on an almost daily basis, we could not be helping our neighbors.
A special debt of gratitude goes to Mary Liz Mulligan who truly was the mother of the garden when she chaired our Green Committee and is responsible for the concept becoming a reality. Another faithful and enduring partner has been “Farmer Dave” Phillips, Bronxville resident and an accomplished Broadway musician as well as a trained gardener. Our wonderful DPW staff also embraced the garden’s mission and has given countless hours of their own time to help with preparation.
The garden continues to grow and adapt to the ever-expanding needs of our neighbors. As example, five new beds were added this season within the confines of the original space just by reimagining the configuration.
The garden thrives because the mission is simple and direct…. Work to help our neighbors.
It is hard to believe but in Westchester County, ranked third or fourth nationally as one of the richest counties in the country, has one in six residents who are food insufficient and our nonprofits warn that food insecurity will remain a significant challenge even after the end of COVID.
During COVID, the county’s largest nonprofit hunger relief organization, Feeding Westchester, served more than twice as many residents compared to any prior year. Feeding Westchester’s network has nearly 300 community partners and programs that serve an average of 275 to 300,000 hungry residents each month compared to 125 to 150,000 pre-COVID.
On a yearly basis, this translates into sharing 22 million pounds of food or 18.4 million meals in Westchester alone through soup kitchens, food pantries, schools, shelters, residential programs and mobile distribution centers.
Every one of our hungry Westchester neighbors needs our help but the children are particularly vulnerable. The data is there that even a simple school breakfast results in improved dietary intake which translates into better test scores, calmer classrooms, stronger attendance, better graduation rates and overall improved student health as many families have to rely on what they can afford, often the cheapest choices available, which are often high in calories and low in nutrients thus exacerbating the nationwide juvenile obesity problem.
Compounding this is the current record inflation which has raised meat prices 20% and fruit and vegetable prices 17%. Many families had already tightened their belt as much as they could and this fluctuation in prices has been crippling to family budgets.
Every dollar donated to Feeding Westchester provides up to three meals for local children, seniors and their families.
One hundred percent of your donation for either organization is tax deductible:
Use the donate button on FeedingWestchester.org or call 914-932-1100
Mail donations to Bronxville Giving Garden, PO Box 404, Bronxville, NY 10708
(Checks should be made payable to Village of Bronxville, with Bronxville Giving Garden in the memo line)
Please stop by the Giving Garden at the corner of Pondfield Road and Gramatan Avenue to see philanthropy growing!