Gardeners are encouraged to help fellow community members access healthier food

  • Pictured are food donations of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Did you know that one in six New Hampshire households is food insecure? You might know someone who is experiencing food insecurity – a family member, a friend, or a neighbor. Hunger can affect people from all walks of life.

 When families are facing hunger, food insecurity and tighter budgets, it’s not always easy for them to access fresh and more nutritious food options, like fruit or vegetables.

September is Hunger Action Month, an appropriate time to celebrate Plant A Row, which is working to grow a healthier Seacoast, one extra garden row at a time.

2022 marks the third and, so far, most successful year of the Plant A Row initiative.

Originally started in 2020 during the height of the COVID- 19 pandemic, Strafford County 4-H and Nutrition Connections initiated Plant A Row as part of the national initiative to provide food pantries in Strafford County with more locally grown, fresh and in-season produce.

What is Plant A Row?

Plant a Row or Grow a Row initiatives exist in different forms and under various names nationwide. It is an effective and hands-on way to increase the amount of locally grown and fresh produce at food pantries for those in need.

Plant a Row encourages individuals, families, farmers, and community garden members to grow an extra row, an extra container, or an extra garden bed. The produce gained from these rows, containers and beds will be donated to participating Plant A Row food pantries or passed on to a neighbor in need or to help supplement a families’ own produce intake.

Plant A Row’s success is rooted in community engagement. Families and individuals sign up in the spring and receive a colorful garden kit containing seeds, helpful resources, a fabric garden container and gardening gloves. A self-report sheet is provided to capture experiences and produce quantities as well as a list of participating food pantries in Strafford and Rockingham Counties.

This year, participating families and individuals have been sharing lots of positive feedback and pictures showing their garden beds and kids with hands in the dirt, planting, weeding and harvesting.

The Plant A Row effort is a true grassroots movement that is gaining momentum in New Hampshire, because it not only provides fresh produce options for food pantries but also nurtures a giving mindset. Families explore gardening together, observing how vegetables grow, experiencing different growing conditions, gaining an understanding of food insecurity, and understanding how to access and support local food pantries.

Participant numbers increased from 25 individuals and families in 2021 to 189 sign-ups in 2022, and we are looking with excitement towards 2023, with high hopes of further increasing participation.

It is not too late to get involved for fall 2022; participating food pantries are still accepting donations of fresh and local garden produce. Even a one-time donation of a zucchini bumper crop will make someone’s day healthier and happier.

Do you have extra apples on your trees? They can be donated!

A list of food pantries that are accepting fresh produce donations can be found on the Plant A Row website.

Picture are two children with fresh garden produce donations.