Edible Gardening

Food Shuttle Fills Bellies, Feeds Minds

A bountiful harvest of garden-fresh produce is every home gardener’s vision. But what if you didn’t have access to fresh, homegrown, healthy food?  That’s just what the folks at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle are all about.

What began as a simple kindhearted act of rescuing good food to give to the hungry before it goes to waste has grown into a productive working farm, teaching facility, and food bank. This food program is more than getting access to locally grown produce; it’s about teaching people how to grow, harvest, and use the produce in the kitchen, as well as create a secure community environment.

photo by Sandie Zazzara

The Young Farmer Training Program allows at-risk teens to experience the full chain of farming from sowing the seeds to selling the produce in a market setting. The Culinary Job Training program offers adults job training skills in food service. And through partnerships with Plant a Row for the Hungry and Share Our Strength, the Food Shuttle is able to reach those in need over a seven county area.

Sun Butler, farm manager/educator, and Amanda Soltes, Wake County Community Gardens Coordinator, gave me a tour of the six-acre farm on Tryon Road. There I learned about what is grown on a large scale and what can be achieved in the home garden.

For example, growing rye grass as a cover crop, and then using it as a natural pre-emergent herbicide to prevent would-be germinating weed seeds. Crimping over the stems allows the rye to create mulch over the soil. A chemical produced by the rye inhibits weed seeds from germinating, making the soil ready to take young transplants.

Crops start as seeds or transplants, either purchased or donated. Some are then grown on the farm and others will be grown in community gardens. The growing techniques include using composted manure, creating biomass, planning crop rotation and planting cover crops.

There are chickens on the farm to eat insects; the future includes aquaponics, bee keeping, and raising goats. Sun wants the farm to be the place where people learn how to garden or farm. Last year over 1900 volunteers came to the garden to help.

The Food Shuttle is always seeking assistance from volunteers on any scale and any skill level, from planting the garden, to harvesting, to teaching food preparation. It’s just one of the ways the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle fills the bellies of the hungry, and feeds the minds of those who not only don’t have access to healthy food, but of those who volunteer as well.

In 2010, the Food Shuttle –

– Rescued more than 6.5 million pounds of food.
– Delivered food to 212 programs in the region.
– Provided 21,449 bags of groceries to low-income people.
– Produced over 15,000 pounds of produce on their Raleigh farm.
– Distributed 30,610 backpacks with nutritious weekend meals to children.

For information on how you can volunteer, visit their website at foodshuttle.org or call 919-250-0043.

Byline:
Sandie Zazzara loves to garden at home.  She can be reached at sandrazazzara@yahoo.com