November 29, 2014

Elyria
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Local nursery owner encouraging gardeners to donate produce

CAMDEN TWP. — There’s nothing like a fresh tomato or home-grown zucchini.

Nursery owner and garden enthusiast Joanna Thomas wants everyone to get the chance to enjoy them this summer.

That’s why Thomas is coordinating the local Plant a Row for the Hungry project to encourage gardeners to donate a small portion of their harvest to a local food bank.

The first collection takes place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Thomas’s Gardenscapes Nursery, 5365 Gifford Road, Camden Township.

After all the vegetables are collected, a representative of Urban Organ-ics/Sweet Peet will deliver the food to Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, 7445 Deer Trail Lane, in Lorain.

Joanna Thomas, owner of Gardenscapes Nursery in Camden Township, and her father, Jack Thomas, pick vegetables that will be donated this weekend to Second Harvest Food Bank. (Photo by Bruce Bishop, The Chronicle-Telegram.)

Joanna Thomas, owner of Gardenscapes Nursery in Camden Township, and her father, Jack Thomas, pick vegetables that will be donated this weekend to Second Harvest Food Bank. (Photo by Bruce Bishop, The Chronicle-Telegram.)

Plant a Row for the Hungry is a national public program launched in 1995 by the Garden Writers of America, who encouraged their readers and listeners to plant an extra row of produce and donate their surplus to local food banks, soup kitchens and service organizations.

Since 1995, more than 14 million pounds of produce providing about 50 million meals have been donated by American gardeners, she said.

Every extra cob of corn, tomato or pepper will be appreciated, said Julie Chase-Morefield, the food bank’s executive director.

“It’s a small part, but it’s important for the food pantries,” Chase-Morefield said. “We will always accept food donations — we just want food to go to those in need.”

For more information on Plant a Row for the Hungry, visit www.sweetpeet.net and click on Plant a Row for additional drop-off dates.

Chase-Morefield said gardeners with buckets of zucchini or other produce also can go to the Web site www.AmpleHarvest.org to find food pantries, church food programs and other groups that accept the items.

For example, if you enter 44035 — one of Elyria’s Zip codes — 14 drop-off sites are listed.

Food pantries, agencies and churches with food programs also can register at www.AmpleHarvest.org to let people know they accept vegetables or fruit.

Fresh vegetables headed for local charities. (Photo by Bruce Bishop, The Chronicle-Telegram.)

Fresh vegetables headed for local charities. (Photo by Bruce Bishop, The Chronicle-Telegram.)

According to AmpleHarvest.org, an estimated 100 billion pounds of food — enough to totally eliminate hunger — is thrown away annually in the United States.

Last year, Second Harvest distributed more than 4 million pounds of food in Crawford, Erie, Huron and Lorain counties, Chase-Morefield said.

This year, “We are on track to do 5 million (pounds),” she said.

The fresh produce will be rolling in this month.

“We may hit a half a million pounds in one month,” Chase-Morefield said.

Monetary donations to Second Harvest also may be made online at secondharvestfoodbank.org.

If you want to help

  • Drop off fresh vegetables for Plant a Row for the Hungry 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Gardenscapes Nursery, 5365 Gifford Road, Camden Township.
  • Visit www.AmpleHarvest.org. Enter your Zip code and find a shelter or food pantry near you that accepts home-grown produce.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.

Joanna Thomas, owner of Gardenscapes Nursery in Camden Township, and her father, Jack Thomas, pick vegetables that will be donated this weekend to Second Harvest Food Bank. (Photo by Bruce Bishop, The Chronicle-Telegram.)

Joanna Thomas, owner of Gardenscapes Nursery in Camden Township, and her father, Jack Thomas, pick vegetables that will be donated this weekend to Second Harvest Food Bank. (Photo by Bruce Bishop, The Chronicle-Telegram.)