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Square foot gardening project helps Feeding America

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Last week I wrote about the Hillside Community Garden in Ohio, which is doing its part to feed the hungry. To the north in Michigan, another community group is also helping Feeding America through a gardening program.

The United Church Outreach Ministry in Grand Rapids has the Square Foot Gardening project. The Ministry gives out 4x4 raised garden boxes to area residents. Soil, seeds and education about growing food is also provided.

With these garden boxes people can grow as many as 16 crops including onions, peppers, carrots, lettuce, beets and tomatoes. The idea is to give people a way to grow their own food and support themselves. It also provides the most nutritious food helping participants stay healthy.

It's all part of the Ministry's Growing Green Neighbors initiative. A requirement for joining the program is to teach the gardening skills to a neighbor or friend. In addition, the Ministry has a program which helps seniors get more fruits and vegetables in their diets.

The Ministry also operates one of the largest pantries in the Grand Rapids area. In 2010, their Client Choice food pantry fed over 50,000 people. The Ministry's mobile food pantry is one of the first of its kind. In addition, the Ministry has a pantry for those with chronic illness to make sure they get enough nutrition. To most effectively treat illness always requires nutritious food.

The Ministry is a member of Feeding America West Michigan, part of the nationwide network of food banks. Feeding America West Michigan provides food in 40 counties throughout the state.

The Ministry and the pantry are located in Kent County. According the Feeding America study, this area of Michigan has a rate of hunger of over 13 percent. This is below the state average of over 16 percent. The child hunger rate in the county exceeds 18 percent.

For more information about the pantry and its gardening projects visit the United Church Outreach Ministry web page.

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