I wrote the blog post featured below last June when we were in the thick of the pandemic and our communities were crumbling under the weight of closing businesses, loss of jobs, thousands of lost lives and families becoming a part of a rising statistic of unhoused people living on the streets. I thought I’d include it again in this post about National Garden Month. I grow a lot of food. I share what I grow, I donate what I grow and what I cook to unhoused people, and I use what we grow for our soup business and our family pantry. Even I found inspiration in this post. Gardening can provide so much more than just seasonal crops. It’s time to get back to our roots, build community gardens and GROW FOOD!!
APRIL IS NATIONAL GARDEN MONTH!
In 2015, during President Obama’s service, April was declared National Garden Month by the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. The official proclamation celebrates “the great American tradition of gardening at home, at school and in the community.” Since the USDA People’s Garden Initiative was launched in 2009, 2,116 gardens have registered as People’s Gardens in communities across the United States and in 12 foreign countries. USDA’s commitment to gardening has deep roots. The First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative has great information about starting a kitchen, school or community garden. A recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that implementing school garden / farm programs not only gave children access to fresh vegetables and fruits, but inspired them to make better choices that immediately impacted their health and lifestyle blueprint for the rest of their lives. It also increased their intake of Vit A, Vit C, Vit K and fiber. In this study the students more than doubled their intake of fruits and vegetables — going from 1.93 to 4.5 servings per day. Gardening also provides healthy exercise — burning calories, stretching and strengthening muscles and bones. Gardening simply provides a direct link to a healthier lifestyle.
Additional Background on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Between 2009-2016, USDA enrolled a record number of acres in conservation programs through a new model of stewardship that brought together local, national, public and private partners. USDA also introduced healthier food choices in school meals to benefit 50 million children during Vilsack’s tenure. He expanded free and reduced-price participation in the National School Lunch Program by 19 percent and in the breakfast program by 30 percent, ensuring more low-income children had access to healthy meals each day. To diversify farming operations, he introduced new crop insurance and risk management tools for farms of all sizes.
He built a diverse workforce at USDA. Nonwhite representation increased by 88 percent; USDA’s Senior Executive Service (SES) Corps was the most diverse across the U.S. government; and USDA saw a 140 percent increase in the number of minority students hired. Annual lending to underserved and socially disadvantaged producers increased 118-percent. Under his direction, USDA made important progress to address decades of outstanding civil rights claims and EEO complaints for customers and employees alike. USDA also launched the Office of Tribal Relations and regularly engaged in Tribal consultations with Native American communities.
Vilsack has been honored for his public service and work to advance American agriculture by the several organizations, including the Congressional Hunger Center and the Global Child Nutrition Foundation. He is a former member of the board of directors for GenYOUth as well as Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks that feed more than 46 million people through food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other community-based agencies.