|Volunteers working at the Bo White Gardens|
Lots of people take advantage of Fairfax County’s community gardens program to grow vegetables for their families. A group of dedicated volunteers from Columbia Baptist Church has taken the concept to another level. They are using a garden plot at Pine Ridge Park in Annandale—along with other gardens—to help feed the needy.
Members of the church started the program in spring 2010 to provide healthier food to the people served by the church’s food pantry.
“We were giving out a lot of canned and boxed food in the pantry, and we thought we could provide better food,” says Georgianna Hall, of the founders of the Spend Yourself Gardens program. “A lot of people don’t eat right. Our goal was not just to give out food, but to teach them how to grow their own food.”
Volunteers developed a garden in a sunny area in front of the church’s site in Bailey’s Crossroads, and a family in the congregation who had a plot in the Bo White Gardens in Pine Ridge Park contributed that space. In 2011, they added gardens next to the food pantry and at the church’s main facility in Falls Church.
A core group of church members work in the gardens, and their efforts are supplemented by individuals and families who agree to “adopt a garden” for a week or more during the growing season. Food pantry clients also help in the gardens, and church members contribute produce from their backyards.
According to Hall, 89 volunteers contributed 1,011 hours during the 2011 growing season.
The program also included workshops where pantry clients were given a potted plant and taught how to care for it. Volunteer chefs associated with the Capital Area Food Bank gave presentations about the nutritional value of fresh vegetables and handed out recipes.