Several Utah food banks were recent recipients of 39,600 pounds of produce donated by the Utah State University Cooperative Extension Food Pantry Garden at the Utah Botanical Center in Kaysville. The more than five-fold increase over last year’s donated produce will make an even larger dent in Utah hunger this year.
According to JayDee Gunnell, USU Cooperative Extension horticulture agent in Davis County, the first Utah Botanical Center Food Pantry Garden was planted in 2009 by three Boy Scouts for their Eagle Scout projects. Throughout the season, more than 1,100 local community volunteers helped maintain and harvest the small 12,000-square-foot garden plots. That first season, the gardens produced more than 7,000 pounds of fresh produce.
“Because the community support that first year was so incredible, we decided to think a little bigger,” Gunnell said. “We decided to increase the project scope from 12,000 square feet to an acre, or 43,560 square feet. And just for a challenge, we even planted five acres of sweet corn. But in order to go bigger, we had to pull in some outside help.”
Gunnell said Mountain Valley Seed of Salt Lake City and Intermountain Farmers Association (IFA) donated all of the seed for the project, and through financial support from Questar Gas and Energy Solutions, a garden coordinator was hired for the project.
“April Clark, our summer program coordinator, did an amazing job in rallying and coordinating the many volunteers,” said Jerry Goodspeed, USU Cooperative Extension horticulture agent in Weber County. “It has been great to work hand in hand with such community-minded corporations and volunteers.”
This season, approximately 1,100 community volunteers helped harvest more than 33,000 pounds of sweet corn and approximately 6,600 pounds of other produce, including tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peppers and melons.
“We are grateful for all the support and hope to continue this worthy project in future years,” Goodspeed said. “One of the great lessons we have learned through this undertaking is that small inputs from many players can make huge impacts for the good in peoples’ lives.”
Writer: Julene Reese, 435-797-0810
Contact: JayDee Gunnell, 801-451-3411