In ‘Plant It Forward,’ Food Bank Encourages Gardening

by Alexandra Porben | June 21, 2021

As spring arrived in the area, our Southern Maryland Food Bank was already working on how it could use the sunshine and warm temperatures of the growing season to help address food insecurity.

From that interest, the food bank embarked on a new project called Plant It Forward, which encourages members of the community to learn to grow fresh fruits and vegetables to meet some of their basic food needs.

“Learning how to grow food in this program is a steppingstone to becoming self-sufficient and improving your health and overall well-being through fresh food, education and support,” said Brenda DiCarlo, food bank director.

The Southern Maryland Food Bank has been helping fight hunger for more than 30 years with emergency food pantries in Charles, St. Mary’s and Calvert counties. The program also manages additional initiatives that include a community garden and the delivery of healthy groceries to at-risk senior citizens and children.

Plant It Forward, funded by a generous donation from the Wills Group, will provide up to 150 garden kits to those facing food insecurity.

Each kit includes two 10-inch pots, a window box, a large bag of soil, a watering can, a small bag of compost, a trowel, strawberry plants, cherry tomato and green pepper plants and various vegetable seeds.

Before obtaining a kit, individuals attend a 20-minute workshop that includes a demo, tutorial and distribution of the materials. Upon completing the workshop, they will become members of the Southern Maryland Food Bank’s Garden and Recipe Club, where they will receive nutritious and delicious recipes and support one another’s gardening efforts.

This new and exciting food project would not be made possible without generous partners and donors. The University of Maryland Extension is providing video tutorials to gardeners, planting seeds in the food bank’s Seeds of Hope community garden and coordinating with a nutritionist to provide healthy eating tips.

Additionally, the university will collaborate with the nonprofit Melwood, which is providing resources and space in its greenhouse for the project.