Portland Community Gardens’ Produce for People program donated more than 31,500 pounds of fresh, nutritious, organic, locally grown produce to Portland’s hunger relief agencies this past year. Gardeners from 48 Portland Community Gardens across Portland participated in 2016.
Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) created Produce for People in 1995 as a grassroots effort in which community gardeners grow fresh food and help fulfill the needs of the hungry. Since it first blossomed, the program has donated nearly 300,000 pounds of food to Portland hunger relief agencies.
The Produce for People program provides resources and motivation for community gardeners to connect with people outside the garden to share their bounty. At each garden, leaders will organize their gardeners to decide what to grow for donation, where the produce will be donated, and establish regular pick-up and delivery times.
The 2016 growing season saw the development and construction of a new Produce for People garden bed at the NE 72nd Ave. Community Garden, in the future Thomas Cully Park. The garden leadership team and more than half of the community gardeners at the site speak Spanish as their primary language. With bilingual community and PP&R staff support, they were able to collaborate with their English speaking co-gardeners to convert a previously unused common area into a new garden plot. The entire community garden will be able to produce food on this plot exclusively for donation. The NE 72nd Ave. gardeners designated the Northeast Emergency Food Program to receive their donated produce.
The 400 square-foot garden plot will allow the gardeners to grow an abundance of fresh, healthy, organic produce this spring. Federico Ramirez, co-manager at PP&R’s Cully Community Garden, is mentoring NE 72nd Ave. community gardeners on setting up their Produce for People program.
“Es un buen principio para el jardín y esta comunidad Latina,” says Ramirez. “Para involucrarnos más con las comunidades que ya están trabajando en este esfuerzo, compartir en la cosecha y aprender de cómo ser más bondadosos.”
(“It is a good beginning for this garden and this Latino community,” says Ramirez, co-manager at PP&R’s Cully Community Garden. “To be more involved with the communities that are already working in this effort, to share the harvest and to continue learning ways to have an open heart to those less fortunate than ourselves.”)
“This example of multicultural, community-led contributions is truly something worth celebrating,” says Portland Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “When neighbors work to help neighbors, we are all better off. Our sincere thanks to all of the gardeners who donated produce for their selfness and gracious efforts.”
“Our Portland Community Gardens are a hallmark program of Portland Parks & Recreation, and they help make Portland the sustainable, healthy city that it is,” says PP&R Director Mike Abbaté. “I am tremendously thankful for the hard work and giving spirit shown by the community gardeners, and I’m very proud of all our PP&R Community Gardens staff for their continued efforts to steward this invaluable program and all of our 50+ Portland Community Gardens citywide.”
The Produce for People program simultaneously allows gardeners to cut down on wasting perishable produce they aren’t able to immediately consume, and to make new connections with members of their community. The ability of gardeners to produce a wide variety of vegetables as well as fresh herbs is a unique benefit of the program as it provides a greater diversity of culinary resources to communities experiencing food scarcity.
Information on Portland Community Gardens is available in English, Spanish and Russian online, at https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/39846.