Food banks see dip in donations, local gardens jump in to help with fresh produce

Posted at 2:46 PM, Mar 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 06:47:00-04

NORFOLK, Va. -- Food banks across the region and even across the nation are experiencing a problem right now, as Karen Joyner, CEO of the Virginia Peninsula Food Bank, explained, “March and April is the beginning of when we start seeing a significant decrease in donations."

Joyner explained that food banks rely heavily on donations from residents and grocery store partners to replenish their stock. The continuing coronavirus pandemic has also made it difficult for food banks and has been another reason for drops in food donations over the last year.

One kind of food product that has also been difficult to obtain is fresh produce.

“When we don’t get that, and even when we do get that,” Joyner said, “We buy a lot of produce throughout the year and we always have."

That is where community gardens like the Fred Heutte Community Garden in Norfolk play a role to help.

"This garden is basically providing food in the spring and fall to the food bank,” Tom West, the garden’s master gardener, said.”

This garden grows a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, and onions to support the food banks in their neighborhood.

“Last year we planted 400 seedling plants of different varieties,” West said. “Onions are growing now. That’s a crop we can go through the fall and we put three boxes we designate for potatoes."

But for this garden and others like it, they are not just helping now.

“We plan on growing for Thanksgiving for them,” West explained, “so that they have an abundance of vegetables and for Christmas,

“We love to see these individual farmers and families take the time to think of the food bank when they have excess produce,” Joyner said. “They may not have brought the huge quantities but they were bringing the quantities frequently so it all adds up and it helps us stretch our dollars to purchase other items."