Celebrating National Veggie Day with a New Raised Garden Bed
June 16 is Fresh Veggie Appreciation Day, and St. Vincent de Paul-Cincinnati is recognizing the day by celebrating its first summer tending to a new raised vegetable garden at its Liz Carter Center (Bank St.). All harvested produce will go to neighbors shopping at the Becky & Ted Catino Choice Food Pantry. The garden has already harvested over 20 lbs. of collard greens and lettuce. Food Pantry Manager Demi Schoenherr, who is leading the project and serves as the garden’s main tender, expects over 200 lbs. more to be harvested throughout the rest of the summer.
Accessibility to vegetables increases quality of life by providing numerous health benefits. According to the US Department of Agriculture, eating vegetables on a consistent basis can help reduce a person’s risk for heart disease, strokes, a heart attack, certain types of cancers, and can lower the need for high-calorie food which can lead to other health concerns such as obesity and diabetes. Veggie consumption also generally increases one’s fiber and potassium intake.
While the issue of food insecurity is complex, there are several factors that may make fresh fruits and vegetables more difficult for some neighbors to incorporate in their everyday diets. Food prices, for example, as measured in the USDA’s Consumer Price Index for Food, have increased 8.3% since April 2021. Aside from increase in costs, some neighbors do not live in walking proximity to a supermarket or to a fresh produce market such as Findlay Market, making the journey of obtaining fresh produce more difficult. Some rely primarily on corner stores for groceries due to time and transportation obstacles. Due to this reality, Schoenherr was inspired to take action and set a plan to create a raised bed garden for more neighbors to enjoy fresh produce this year.
The Becky & Ted Catino Choice Food Pantry, under Schoenherr’s leadership, receives 2,000 to 4,000 lbs. of fresh produce every week donated from local grocery stores and nonprofit organizations. Schoenherr says those donations are typically surplus seasonal produce. “The variety and quality of produce which our food warehouse receives is plentiful,” Schoenherr says. However, the type of produce donated can be inconsistent, leaving Schoenherr turning to other low-cost solutions.
“I wanted a source of produce that offered more consistency,” Schoenherr says. “I also wanted to offer types of produce that are favored by our community members — such as collard greens and peppers.” Lettuce was also added to the list, with Schoenherr citing its less shelf-stable qualities, which makes freshness a priority. Other greens, such as pole beans, tomatoes and zucchini, are now growing as well.
This summer’s produce haul is only the beginning. Looking ahead, Schoenherr has big plans for St. Vincent de Paul’s gardens. They envision more raised garden beds and future classes to help teach neighbors about the advantages of gardening and helpful tips and tricks to creating a garden in your own backyard.
“There’s such a cool feeling from starting the day picking produce from the garden, to stocking the shelves, and seeing all of that harvest already gone by the end of the day,” Schoenherr says.
The value of a small, local, or community garden reflect those of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul: thinking locally, and allocating resources to community members from services most closely embedded within the community. The team at Becky & Ted Catino Food Pantry understands this, and hopes this summer is only the start of a fruitful project for the following years to come.
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