Community Garden supplies fresh produce to San Antonio Food Bank
June 3, 2020
While most of Palo Alto College has been operating remotely, its Community Garden has been quietly thriving, yielding crops, and persisting in its mission to feed the community.
During regular operations, the food harvested from the Community Garden goes to community members or is donated to the College's food pantry.
Since the move to remote operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, horticulture instructor Rose Flores and lab technician Samantha Abney have continued to look after the garden, taking turns watering, weeding, and checking for pests.
"When everything closed on campus, I realized this garden was just left here with old winter crops, and there wasn't anybody that was going to be able to use it," said Flores.
Abney and Flores resolved to keep the Community Garden going and donate various food items to the San Antonio Food Bank. Abney harvested and donated about 140 pounds of carrots, swiss chard, and kale from the winter crops. Flores then took vegetable plants that the student Horticulture Club had cultivated and planted every garden bed full of vegetables.
"I felt helpless watching the news and all the people in the Food Bank lines. Everybody trying to get food and being nervous about their food security," said Flores. "I'm not able to volunteer [at the Food Bank] because we have several high-risk people in our family, but one way I could help people is to grow food."
As of April 2020, the Community Garden has donated about 255 pounds to the Food Bank.
Currently, all 25 beds in the garden are growing different types of produce including tomatoes, peppers, jalapeño peppers, corn, okra, fennel, squashes, and more. These will be ready to harvest and donate in the coming weeks.
Once this batch of vegetables is done producing, Flores said all the clippings will be thrown into a compost pile to become fertilizer and will be fed back into the garden, so nothing in the garden goes to waste.
"The community garden is considered organic, so we don't put any chemical nutrients on the plants," Flores said. "We try to be as natural as possible and use our compost to feed the plants."
While addressing food insecurity is top of mind when it comes to volunteering her time to the community garden, Flores admits that there is so much more to gain from gardening, like benefits to her physical and mental well-being.
"Hopefully, as time goes on, we'll be able to involve more community because that's the whole point of this. I want the community to enjoy what Samantha and I are enjoying. It's work, but it's also rewarding."
The Community Garden is an addition to other campus initiatives to provide healthy food to students and the community, including the on-campus food pantry and biannual Food Fairs, both supported by the San Antonio Food Bank.
"Palo Alto College Community Garden Donates 400 Pounds of Produce to San Antonio Food Bank" - San Antonio Current, June 12, 2020
"Local college donates over 380 pounds of food to San Antonio Food Bank" - KSAT12, June 11, 2020