The Produce Project: Food pantry asks local gardeners to help with organic food project
SHEPHERDSTOWN — As the old saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” And for a number of Shepherdstown residents, this month’s weather may also be the basis for the growth of future crops for the Shepherdstown Shares food pantry.
According to Shepherdstown Shares President Marianne Davis, her nonprofit organization’s most recently developed program, the Produce Project, will be a way to offer more healthy food options to community members in the future.
Local gardeners are encouraged to participate in the program, by picking up free organic seeds at the Shepherdstown Shares food pantry, planting the seeds and giving the resulting produce back to Shepherdstown Shares. Any produce that cannot be conceivably used by the food pantry’s consumers will be donated to other local charitable organizations to give away, such as Jefferson County Community Ministries.
The Produce Project will not only be participated in by permanent Shepherdstown residents, but also by Shepherd University students and faculty at Tabler Farm, Davis said.
“We’re trying to get as many people involved as possible. We developed a partnership with Shepherd University. We gave them some money to buy them pots, organic soil and organic seeds,” Davis said, mentioning the seeds given to Tabler Farm and other gardeners through the program will range from tomatoes to tomatillos.
According to Shepherdstown Shares member Jan Hafer, the program is just another way for community members to help their neighbors in need.
“We’re thinking of any way we can involve people, when we develop our various initiatives,” Hafer said. “They’re growing nutritional food for a good cause. It’s quality stuff grown by people in the community for people in the community.”
One likely future offshoot of this program, is the development of a Shepherdstown Shares cookbook, featuring healthy recipes submitted to the organization by community members.
“We hope to be able to provide recipes for some of this produce,” Hafer said, mentioning they would also like to schedule a free food preservation class with a seasoned food canner, so food pantry consumers could benefit from the pantry’s produce year-round.
“Most of our clients are people that, because of COVID, have had work cut back, or lost their job, or have had to stay home with their kids for school,” Hafer said. “There are a lot of people who have not been able to pay rent for months, but they’ll have to pay it off eventually. Through the help of the food pantry, they’ll be able to save their money to pay for rent, and not have to worry about losing their homes.”
While Shepherdstown Shares may be regularly working on introducing new community service initiatives, it is only able to operate through the hard work of many participants. According to Davis, offering a variety of initiatives for local residents to participate in is a crucial part of ensuring Shepherdstown’s success throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“We’re hopeful, of course, that the COVID-19 economic crisis, as well as the COVID-19 health crisis, will pass. But it could be the economy will be sorely hit for years!” Davis said. “So we’re preparing for the possible long haul, if this continues.”