Capital Area Food Bank

By Kerri Qunell

In keeping with one of the Capital Area Food Bank’s (CAFB) goals of empowering people by teaching them to grow their own food, a group of 18 CAFB staffers led by example and planted a garden on the food bank’s grounds in late March. Since then, the four, 4’ x 4’ raised beds have erupted with tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, corn, basil and eggplant—with more abundance on the horizon.

The inspiration for the project came from a presentation given at Austin’s Natural Gardener, where the CAFB team, along with students from Paredes Middle School, learned the techniques of author Mel Bartholomew’s space-saving and low-maintenance “square-foot gardening.” 

The CAFB garden won’t be used as a main source of food for hungry Central Texans, of course, but rather as an important educational tool and resource. CAFB Partner Agencies can visit the site, learn how to square-foot garden and, in turn, teach it to the clients they serve.

And the garden project has been picked up as an official fall course for the local gardening apprenticeship program, Citizen Gardener. During the course, instructors and apprentices will add two additional beds, plant a fruit tree, install a gutter and build a compost pile.

“The Food Bank’s garden is a great demo and inspiration site for others,” says Citizen Gardener’s Dick Pierce. “I’m excited about the project. It’s what CG is all about.”

Community gardening is a natural fit for food banks. Similar programs are in place across the country, including the San Antonio Food Bank and Urban Harvest in Houston, and the efforts produce great results—increased self-reliance, a reduction in family food budgets and a shrinking food line, to name a few.