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War Against Hunger Welcomes New Ally in GardenShare

Aug 29, 2016 03:09PM ● Published by Travis Barton

Rachel Fleming (left), Aaron Fleming, Lark Galli and Wayne Evans are four generations of a family participating in the GardenShare Program. (Hannah Galli | inner i art_

Gallery: War Against Hunger Welcomes New Ally in GardenShare [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

Surplus can be a luxury. For Pat Thomas, some luxuries should go to the hungry.
 
Out of her Sugar House home was born a program called GardenShare where neighbors drop off the excess food grown in their garden at collection sites in their neighborhood. The food is then taken to a food bank.
 
“There are great initiatives in place, this just adds another piece,” Thomas, GardenShare creator, said. “And it’s sustainable, these fruit trees are giving every year.”
 
Thomas grew up with a love for gardens and running. Ironically, the two hobbies combined to inspire the program.
 
“I run five days a week and I would see beautiful gardens and all this food littered across the sidewalks and I would think, ‘This is crazy, there are people who need this,’” Thomas said.
 
After encouraging her children throughout their childhood to do service projects collecting surplus food, six years ago her children finally turned it back on her.
 
“I was lamenting to one of my children that I wished they had done that and she said, ‘Well, why don’t you do that,’” Thomas said.
 
The program falls under the umbrella of the Green Urban Lunch Box with the assistance of the Utah Food Bank. Thomas said she found that people are happy to donate but don’t have the time to make the trip to the food banks.
 
GardenShare uses volunteers who offer their homes as collection sites then the volunteers transport the fresh produce to the nearest food pantry.
 
“People are catching a vision and it’s as thrilling as if it were happening to me that it’s happening for other people when they open their door [seeing the donations] and they feel like it’s Christmas because there’s stuff out there they can donate,” Thomas said.
 
Thomas, who recently received her master’s degree in arts and community leadership from Westminster College, has been working on the program for the last six years and has incorporated friends and family to do it in their neighborhoods. They now have 24 collection homes most of which exist along the east bench in Sugar House and Millcreek, but has grown with locations in Draper, Tooele, Bountiful and Syracuse.
 
For the past six years Thomas has collected less than 50 pounds. Now she has neighborhoods collecting 100 pounds per week. Since July, the weight total at her home is just over 330 pounds. She said she felt it could grow more in Sugar House.
 
“Because there are quite a few collectors in Sugar House area, Sugar House ought to know about it. If you have fruit trees or grapevines, it doesn’t have to go to waste,” Thomas said.
 
Thomas said they’ve spread the word mostly through social media and word of mouth. They are always looking for more people to get involved, even if it’s just telling people about it, she said.
 
“People can think, ‘Oh, I don’t have a garden, I don’t have fruit trees,’ but if they have a large social media presence, they can just help people to be aware,” Thomas said.
 
There are different ways for people to engage in the program itself, Thomas said, that includes receiving free seed to start planting in gardens as well as donating food or transporting it.
 
Thomas has had multiple conversations with local pantries to understand what kinds of fruits and vegetables people choose at those pantries. She then passed out fliers letting people know what food people seem to be most familiar with across many cultures.
 
Thomas spent time in the early 80’s working in Guatemala, an experience that helped motivate her to fight hunger.
 
“It’s something you don’t forget that everybody’s life is centered around their next meal,” she said.
 
For more information on the program, call 801-652-6801 or email at gardenshare@gulb.org
Today, Local Life sugar house hunger surplus food GardenShare Pat Thomas
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