Food security and Christmas food hampers

The Turkey Drive has just wrapped up again for another Christmas.
The Salvation Army has the kettles out, collecting money to help folks.
This the general feel good time of year, and thankfully, folks give.
What would it take so folks in need had more?
Why don’t more folks in Town grow some of what they eat?
It must make sence to those who have food insecurity, even if it doesn’t make sence to me. 1 in 5 people here are wondering if they can make the week till the next paycheque and not run out of food.

I am glad to see the Public Libraries have now set up seed banks.
Folks like me contribute seeds and they are given out free in the spring to whoever asks for some. They must grow the crop out and return seed in the fall. I think this is a great idea, however, what is the real issue? Do folks expect theft of their produce, are they working two jobs to make ends meet and too tired to garden? The Village I live close to has no food gardens, some flowers, but excellent soils and no food plots.
I don’t understand…
What could people in Town grow that would not look stealable, not look like food. ?? In the well off areas, what could they grow to avoid restrictive covenents.???
I did see one lady with blue foliaged potatoes and red petunias lining her walkway. They looked ornamental, and I bet she got to eat her spuds.

I would like to see public parks and public buildings with food in their planters, not prickly ornamentals. Some have mentioned cleaning up rotten fruits, prickly husks etc as an issue, but many nuts don’t make a lot of waste, hazels come to mind, pine nuts too. People plant ornamental pines all the time, and clean up the cones…so why not nut pines, they seem easy to grow here, windfirm, hardy, crop well…

We have a group doing something like that for fruit. They have planted lots of fruit trees in public parks etc. See Its not clear they will make any appreciable impact in terms of improving things but they are a very dedicated group. I helped them out in the early days a bit when they knew almost nothing.


I have to think a lot of it is lack of public support and knowledge, and also perhaps, enough food being supplied in other ways in which they don’t HAVE to plant fruit/veg?

I know in England, during WW2, a LOT of pasture and parks were converted to agricultural land, due to the fact not a lot of imports/exports could come there because of the submarines.

People were encouraged to “dig for victory” and there was a lot of public support for it.

In addition, due to the rationing, there was (mostly) enough to eat. But there was not a lot of taste and/or variety, so growing your own vegetables and fruit was one of the only ways to break up the porridge/bread/powdered eggs/margarine/tinned beans/tinned meats diet.

So there was a lot of public support, people helping each other, a feeling “we’re all in this together”, as well as you you would have a highly restricted diet (albeit more or less healthy) unless you chose to grow fruits and vegetables.

I don’t think any of those are true right now. Add in other factors, such as you point out, like fears of theft, and you have not many people growing their own food, even people who would benefit from it.

How do you solve it? I think anything less than a multi-pronged effort, targeting the whole community, with constant support and help, is going to fail to make significant inroads.

Even then, I still think you’ll have significant issues because, even if you are poor, often times you are still able to afford fast food, and the things you can get at the grocery with food stamps. It isn’t porridge, toast, beans, margarine, etc which might motivate you to grow your own just to have something else.

Also, there’s the time issue. I truly don’t believe actual lack of time is an issue in most cases, but there are so many more distractions now that people feel entitled to. Most of us saw our grandmothers, who never let the grass grow under their feet. But people today are honestly not used to working that hard and that long. They feel like they’re entitled to some leisure time. (And I am not throwing stones, certainly I’m like this as well.).

Just my two cents of course, but I think activism may be able to make some inroads and teach some people who are interested in growing some of their own food.

However, I also believe there will be a significant amount of people who just aren’t interested, period, because the internal or external motivations aren’t there, and won’t be, unless life changes drastically.

OK, I get the lack of public support, but I hadn’t thought of the other factors.
I come from a long line of gardeners, and could eat whatever I wanted, anytime I wanted, from the family garden.

I remember sending my Kid to school with meat and a sprig of brocolli and a little jar of salad dressing…the other kids found it gross and she was forced to eat it by herself in another room. Teachers wouldn’t let her eat it in the cafeteria. The rest of them had fruit rollups and white bread sandwhiches.
An actual vegetable was gross.

Oh, well.

That Baltimore group looks good. It’s not only the food, but opening folks eyes to what might be, what can be.

That’s sort of how I think. I’m not interested in growing trees which don’t produce a crop of some sort (although my wife likes ornamentals). For big shade trees, I’d rather plant a pecan or hickory rather than an oak or sycamore.

A lot of people don’t want to harvest the food, even if someone else grew it for them. Our grade school planted serviceberries out front, and while I don’t like the taste of serviceberries fresh, I’m told they make good pies and jam, but no one picks them.

IMHO gardening and agriculture should be a mandatory subject in all schools.

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And why don’t they pick them? I’d warrant it’s because picking berries, then making them into jelly, then canning them properly so they could be put up, is a tremendous time investment and a huge PITA, when you can go to any grocery store and buy pretty good jelly for $2.

I myself recently ripped out some established muscadine grapes on my property because I despise the things fresh. Sure, I could’ve kept them for jelly, but I wasn’t prepared to do all that work for grape jelly. My version might be better than Welch’s but for the time and price involved , it wasn’t going to be that much better.

I think to get people who are a bit resistant to growing their own things to see a benefit is when you get them to grow things that taste significantly better than what you can get in the supermarket.

Unfortunately, those tend to be some of the hardest crops to grow (tomato is one of the hardest for the traditional vegetable crops, and peaches and other stone fruit are pretty hard too.)

There’s not too many things at the intersection between much better taste and easy to grow. Raspberries maybe?

Raspberries definately, and the heirloom types can be very disease resistant and tasty.
Peaches, not hard to grow here, reliant and harrow types come to mind, hardy, not prone to disease in this location, good croppers. Redhaven types are good too, here.

Candied chestnuts, yummy, and you can’t buy them at any price.

Some folks see gardening and cooking, both, as creative endeavors, others, don’t.
jam in the supermarket is cooked too long and stored too long, less taste. Sugar content too high too, since I have a hubby with diabetes.

Quince jam not available in the store either, have to grow the quinces yourself and make up the jam, yourself.
There is something satisfying about nut butter from your own nuts. Squashes you have been saving seeds from for the past 30 years or so are not bad either, grin.

There are a lot of causes for why this doesn’t happen, but I would say that the largest issue facing this kind of project is the “tragedy of the commons” phenomena. Beyond the fact that you would need to invest a certain amount of capital to start gardening in the first place (the impoverished do not have extra capital lying around), people are hesitant to invest a lot of time and resources into something where they are not guaranteed some return on investment for the time they and money they put into the project or where they believe they will have to share their handwork with someone who did not put in an equal or fair amount of labor

It’s also awfully inconvenient. Sure, if the public park was literally across the way from my house this wouldn’t be a big deal. But it’s an awfully big ask to have people walk (or good heavens drive) a distance to take care of a community garden.

Many of these projects seem like a really great way to bring the community together and to add some beauty and utility to public spaces, but I don’t think it will have a meaningful impact on a significant portion of the public. From my own experience you’re best off putting someone motivated in charge and giving them a fairly large amount of leeway to get things done.

I am actually a real estate attorney at a fairly large law firm, and restrictive covenants, CCRs, land use laws, etc. are probably not going to effect you that much. First, if the city is allowing its parks to do this then you’re essentially covered (they are the zoning authority - but who knows, there is probably a state out there with some kind of strange division of powers between state and municipal governments). If you want to use private land for this, you would also want to see what constitutes “agricultural use” and what is permitted by the zoning/land use laws of the applicable municipality. If we’re talking about an HOA then you are going to want to deal with the board or whatever approval authority they have. Even if it is not restricted under the published rules most HOAs’ organizational documents give fairly sweeping powers to its board, so if they catch wind of what you’re doing and they don’t like it they will bring the hammer. Also, just to CYA (because we attorneys love disclaimers) this does not constitute legal advice and I am not your attorney. I would recommend you hire an attorney licensed in your state to provide you with legal advice if you plan on doing anything in this realm.

Just to add to this, but I was taught at a young age not to just stuff my face with random berries that I found around the neighborhood. A lot of people couldn’t identify an oak leaf, so it’s not as if they are going to do a good job of identifying edible plants and berries.

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I’m in Canada, and the legal framework is a bit different here. I think I am more talking personal gardening too, not community gardens. Community gardens exist here.

Then your biggest issue is finding private landowners who are willing to donate their land for the growing of vegetables. They are not going to do this for free, especially given the liabilities that come along with being a landowner. In the United States this would be a big no-no without insurance, contractual protections and indemnities. Canadian tort law is not so different from the common law norm (from my understanding) to think that this wouldn’t be a serious problem.

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That’s probably right. I think that’s how most people would look at it. I think a lot of people just don’t think it’s fun to go out in the heat, sweat, deal with all the bugs and dirt. Only people who see the magic in growing things really like it.

I’ll admit though I don’t pick a lot of things very well, which I don’t sell (like strawberries). My family likes the fresh strawberries we grow, but since we don’t sell them, an amazing amount goes to waste. I’m pretty much the only one who will pick them and many times I’m too tired to mess with it, or don’t have the time. I figure there are also a lot of people like that with their lives.

I agree. I think the jam/jelly is a good example. I’ve had or made some home made jams/jellies which were marginally better than store bought, but not that much better to mess with the hassle. I don’t make jam or jelly anymore, partly for that reason, and also because we don’t eat that much of it. I’ve also made worse jam than store bought. It seems like I have more trouble keeping good color on jams I’ve made than store bought (even with the fruit fresh).

I think most stone fruits are pretty superior to store bought (along with tomatoes). I see less of a difference for pome fruits (I’ve grown apples of worse quality than what I could get in the store - but also grown apples of better quality. I’ve also had some really really good store bought pears.) I’ve grown 4 different varieties of strawberries and they are no better than store bought. We always get a lot of rain here during the time strawberries ripen, and they never reach their potential.

A lot of vegetables grown here are no better than store bought (squashes, lettuces, broccoli, cauliflower). Green beans and peas are better home grown, imo. Cantaloupe and melons generally taste considerably worse than what’s available at the store. Partly because we have the wrong soil for it, and partly because it’s pretty tough to grow seedless watermelons (which I really like).

I think some of the things which taste the best compared to store bought are generally also harder to grow (i.e. stone fruit and tomatoes).

I’m sure I’ve written some things which could provide ample fuel for disagreement, which is not my intention. I’m just sharing my experience in my locale. There are no doubt countless people who think they create the best jam, grow the most mouth watering squash, etc. All this is really a matter of tastes. I’m just sharing mine.

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I think your tastes align pretty well with mine. I don’t mind growing things, and do get some pleasure from it, but not so much I’m jonesing to do extra work for stuff that really isn’t worth it.

My mother grew up making everything from dandelion wine to sauerkraut to root beer and everything in between. I usually ask her before I make anything, “Is X worth the time and trouble?” and she’s never steered me wrong. When I asked her about grape jelly, she said, “For all the work? No way. Buy it at the store.” Thanks, Mom! Lol.

But I think my mom’s experience sort of touches on the difference between now and then. Money was so tight and hunger such a real possibility that anything and everything was grown in the garden, processed, canned, etc.

Now? From what I know, there aren’t many people anymore on the point of real hunger or starvation. They might not be able to eat what they want, when they want, but in some way, they’re able to put some food in their bellies every day. Food stamps, food banks, free breakfasts and lunches for kids, etc.

So growing their own food, taking into account the cost, time, and the work, just might not be a value added proposition for them.

On a more practical level, with practical suggestions, I wonder if the best way to get people to grow more is to approach churches rather than individuals? In the South, the Church really is the center for much of community life. The food could be grown communally, maybe with the thought that they are growing it to benefit the poor of the community. A lot of people around here will show up to Church events, and volunteer to perform good works. And if some of those poor happen to be church members, well…all the better. Nothing wrong with people taking care of each other, and getting others interested in gardening and being more self-sufficient in the process.

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I like the thought. The church I attend has a church garden and gives the food away to the needy. We also have a food pantry which distributes food from Harvesters.

The church garden is a great idea, but it can be difficult to keep the labor up. When our church garden first started, there was no shortage of volunteers, but over a few years, the newness wore off and labor harder to attain and organize. Everyone has busy lives. Our church garden is still going, just not as much enthusiasm (or productivity).

Can’t believe I missed this thread up until now. Here is a link about a project I’m working on. This is the second year for us. It is related.

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Many people find it easier to buy canned or frozen veggies, rather than peel or chop. Junk food is more appealing to them. Raw veggies horrify them. Even if you gave them free veggies, they wouldn’t know what to do with them. I’m not just talking about the poor. Plus, TV is less effort than gardening. Some of us have family members in this category.

IMHO, the only that will bring back gardening into the mainstream is an apocalypse.

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You could feed a family of 4-5 on only a few dollars a day if you had a very little time and knowledge.

Buy a frozen chicken, a bunch of carrots, one celery, a bag of rice, a bag of onions(or leeks), garlic, a bag of potatoes, and maybe a little heavy cream. Start the week with a roast chicken, some roast vegetables, and some rice or potatoes.

Strip the remaining meat off the bird, all of it.

Make stock with the bones and vegetables… use the stock, more vegetables, and the meat (maybe rice as well) to make chicken soup.

Use more stock, celery, onions(or leeks), potatoes and the cream to make potato soup.

That is three healthy meals for an entire family at a total cost of what?

Why do poor people eat poorly? Typically it is a combination of a lack of very basic cooking knowledge and a lack of time to plan/cook even basic meals. Similar constraints would be major major hurdles for any community gardening project.

People would first need to learn how to grow food, how to store/prepare the food they had grown, and they would have to invest the actual time and energy into everything. (and that assumes nobody bored/malicious comes along and destroys or steals their work)