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Community gardens send veggies to the needy

COURTESY: PORTLAND PARKS & RECREATION  - Gardeners at Lents Community Garden show off some of their bounty after a November work party. The volunteers came from Hands On Portland and Produce for People. 
The bounty from Portland's Community Gardens didn't just feed urban gardeners last year.

Portland Parks & Recreation sent 42,000 pounds of surplus produce from 52 of the 50 community gardens city-wide to feed the needy last year.

The fresh, organic produce — grown between November 2014 to October 2015 — was distributed to two dozen hunger relief agencies in Portland last year.

It's part of the Parks bureau's Produce for the People program, established in 1995 to both reduce waste in the gardens and nourish those who need it.

“It is uplifting to see this grassroots effort thrive so well,” says Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz. “PFP is about people helping people, neighbors helping neighbors. I commend all the community gardeners across Portland, as well as our Community Gardens staff, for their continued efforts.”

Portland's community gardens grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, much of it culturally appropriate to diverse pockets of residents.

Neighbors that choose to participate in the Produce for the People program plant an extra row in their garden plot. They grow less perishable veggies like tomatoes (picked slightly under-ripe), green beans, winter squash, hot peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, collard greens and onions.

They weed, water and harvest the produce, and then pitch in to deliver that produce to local agencies.

Those include: Blanchet House, Central City Concern, Fish Emergency Service, Garden Fever, Native American Youth and Family Center, NE Emergency Food Program, Neighborhood House, Oregon Food Bank, PAW Team, Portland Community Reinvestment Initiatives, Portland Housing Authority/Sellwood, SnowCap Community Charities, St. Andrews/St. Vincent DePaul, St. Charles Church, St. Francis Assissi Catholic Church Dining Hall, SUN School Pantry Metropolitan Family Service, Two Rivers Center Loaves & Fishes, and Urban Gleaners.

"Our gardeners have so much pride for the food they grow, and love to share the bounty from their gardens with friends, family and people in their community," says Laura Niemi, Portland Community Gardens program coordinator.

Parks Director Mike Abbaté calls it a community success story, in line with the bureau's mission: "Healthy Parks, Healthy Portland."

For more on Community Gardens: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/39846.

@jenmomanderson

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