Could urban farming end child hunger in the Valley?
If you thought urban farming was something only Hipsters do in California, think again. Urban agriculture projects in Phoenix have been steadily growing since 2015. Yet, despite its recent popularity, urban agriculture is nothing new. The practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in or around a village or town has been a regular practice in Europe since the early 19th century. In the U.S., poverty-stricken citizens in Detroit were asked to use any vacant lots to grow vegetables during the Depression to feed hungry families.
As it turns out, Phoenix has been at the forefront of the urban farming movement. “Abandoned land, backyards, front yards, and even trucks have all contributed to Phoenix, Arizona’s flourishing urban agriculture scene,” reports
“Abandoned land, backyards, front yards and even trucks have all contributed to Phoenix, Arizona’s flourishing urban agriculture scene,” reports foodtank.com.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is one of those forward-thinking communities that has been helping needy neighbors with its urban farming program.
“Using permaculture and chemical-free methods, we grow and harvest hundreds of pounds of fresh produce every week,” the society reports. “These fruits and vegetables are used in our kitchen and added to food boxes for families.
“Thanks to the outpouring of community support, our urban farm includes nearly 1 acre of farmland with a variety of fruits and vegetables, an aquaponics system that produces tilapia and a robust composting program that turns kitchen scraps into the valuable soil to grow more food,” the society explains. “By ramping up production and growing our own produce, we ensure that we are providing the very best to those who need it the most.”
Summer is perceived to be a season of plenty, so it is somewhat ironic that donations to St. Vincent de Paul tend to drop dramatically during the summer months. With children out of school and families facing higher utility costs trying to stay cool, the need for assistance is greater than any other season.
For many children, the end of school marks the beginning of the hungry season. Without school lunches and breakfasts, finding sufficient nutritious, healthy food becomes a severe problem. Something even urban farming can’t seem to fix despite its ongoing popularity.
To help meet this increased summer need, CenturyLink has partnered with St. Vincent de Paul for the CenturyLink Backpack Buddies Food Drive. Since the drive started in 2009, the program has collected more than 28 million pounds of food for food banks across the country.
The Clarke M. Williams Foundation will offer a match of up to $1 million to be allocated to participating food banks across the country based on the amount of donations directed to them through the online drive.
“CenturyLink is proud to support the communities we call home,” said Chris Denzin, CenturyLink Vice President of Operations for Arizona. “One of our primary community objectives is supporting K-12 education, and we know that all kids, especially those dealing with adverse personal situations, need well balanced, nutritious food options to perform their best in the classroom. For this reason, we choose to support St. Vincent De Paul Food Bank and other agencies like it across the state and country.”
According to Feeding America, hunger remains a significant problem in the U.S. and especially in Arizona. There are currently 42 million people facing hunger in the U.S. That includes 13 million children and 5 million seniors. It touches every community in the country.
Each year, more than 6 million pounds of food is processed at the St. Vincent de Paul warehouse. The food is mostly donated by community food drives and grocers. All items are cleaned, sorted and measured against strict quality control standards. From the warehouse, it’s sent to one of five dining rooms, or packed and shipped out to food pantries.
More than 400,000 food boxes are delivered through home visits and other charitable organizations. To ensure families receive proper nutrition, fresh produce from the program’s urban farm is included in the boxes whenever possible.
For those who want to help this local effort and keep Backpack Buddies going strong, please consider making an online donation from June 5th– 16th 2017 and CenturyLink will match your donation up to a million dollars.