A Harvest of Sharing

By Karen Banks   

The Sustainable Food Center (SFC) works daily with alarming statistics. Consider the following:

In Texas, one in five adults—and one in four children—is hungry. More than a million Texans don’t have access to enough food to maintain an active, healthy life. A quick trip to the grocery store to purchase a missing ingredient for an evening meal isn’t an experience many low-income people understand, not when assembling a balanced, nutritious meal takes resources they just don’t have.

Often, their closest food source is a convenience store stocked with empty-calorie foods. Understandably, the amount of fruits and vegetables these Central Texans consume falls well below the USDA recommendations.

SFC’s mission is to make nutritious food readily available to those who need it, and to work on permanent solutions to hunger-related problems. To that end, it created Spread the Harvest, a unique project offering community members the tools to grow their own food. So far, the numbers are encouraging—a packet of carrot seeds that cost less than a dollar, for instance, will produce more than a hundred carrots. And Spread the Harvest sprouts more than just seeds. By sharing physical labor in community garden beds, providing soil amendments, giving advice on how best to grow successful food gardens, and connecting gardeners with food pantries in need of fresh produce, Spread the Harvest has been able to nourish an important segment of Central Texas.  

Next time you walk or drive through this growing metropolis of cranes, concrete roads and high-rises, keep a lookout for hidden SFC oases—green spots full of billowing bunches of Swiss chard, crisp paddles of collard greens, sprawling stands of tomatoes, rainbows of peppers, carrots as orange as the sun  and aromatic cilantro. Whether tucked in the backyard by a tool shed, sharing space with other beds on a vacant city lot, or right under the window of a third grade classroom, these food gardens provide sustenance for those in need.

A plot just the size of a bathtub is big enough to yield a significant amount of food. Last year, 227 Austinites grew nearly 2,000 pounds of produce, and went on to contribute 2,467 meal servings of fresh fruits and vegetables to 1,200 hungry children and adults.

SFC shares the harvest so that Central Texans not only survive, but thrive.