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Jupiter’s ‘giving gardens’ help fight hunger

Updated: Jan 22, 2022

Home-grown vegetables, herbs can stretch food budgets as prices rise

Katherine Kokal

JUPITER – Although Hattie Dupree grew up in rural Clewiston, she’d never spent much time growing any plants or her own food.

“I’m a country girl, I promise, but I’d never planted anything. I’d never dug into the dirt,” she said. “I love plants and flowers, but mine are all artificial because I always kill them.”

That changed when she and more than a dozen other older and retired local residents gathered at Jupiter’s Edna Runner Tutorial Center in early December to plant “giving gardens” – vegetables and herbs they brought home and planted to share with their neighborhoods.

“I’d never been able to watch something grow,” Dupree said of her collard greens, which she noted are already taking off.

The Giving Gardens project, funded by a $100,000 grant, aims to fight poverty by creating more options for fresh food in communities around northern Palm Beach County. The grant, awarded in June, was from Impact the Palm Beaches, a women’s philanthropic organization that donates money to educational, arts, culture, and environmental organizations.

As food prices rise, the gardens can supply for lima beans, green beans, collard greens, basil, mint and other foods that families may otherwise need to find at a grocery store.

End-of-year food price reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show food prices in November were up 6.4% from November 2020. The highest increases have been in meat, poultry and seafood, USDA reported.

“Food is expensive, so we’re teaching people to garden to grow their own fruit and vegetables,” executive director Edna Runner told The Palm Beach Post. “You can survive growing healthy food because you can plant the seedlings again next year and have food all year long.”

In 2021, the center has created at least 200 giving gardens, which the staff hopes eventually become community gardens from Riviera Beach to Tequesta.

Simon’s Giving Garden, a community garden located at the center’s Church Street campus, opened in April with 12 beds to provide fresh food to families in and around northern Palm Beach County. Runner said she hopes to put together a cookbook for families who can now access the community gardens.

The giving gardens project wasn’t just focused on helping older residents grow and harvest their own food, but also to encourage them to share clippings with their neighbors, young children and friends.

Parents of children who participate in center programs also got “giving gardens.”

Runner said the multigenerational connection between Black children and older members of their community is irreplaceable.

“Kids sometimes don’t realize that food comes from the ground, because they’re used to going to the store to shop,” she said. “But others do and they can help make that connection.”

Unfortunately, not every garden has taken off.

Emma Rich said she took home her green bean seedling and planted it in her front yard in West Palm Beach. Although it began to grow, it didn’t make it long.

“My hubby mowed them down. I told him not to cut the yard in that little area and he just mowed right through it,” she said.

As for the plants she kept inside, Rich said they’re faring much better. A mint plant she got at the center has grown enough for her to mix a few leaves in with her water each morning. She’s also mixed mint into her spaghetti — a recipe she now swears by.

“I never would have thought this program would lead to so many new things,” Rich said. “It’s delightful.” @katikokal


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