by Betsy Natter
Hunger Heroes are doing more than fighting hunger, they are fighting for high quality food. If you’ve ever participated in a community food drive you most likely have donated specific kinds of items like dry pasta, beans, soup, rice and other dry goods. Those are the typical fare stocked in food pantries. And while these items are staples and provide much needed assistance to those who need help feeding their families, many in need require special dietary foods that are not among those items typically donated.
That’s where Garden of Health Hunger Heroes steps in and fills the gap. The non-profit focuses on providing foods that meet special dietary requirements. Dietary needs include gluten free, heart healthy, diabetic friendly and allergen-free foods. As specialty products these items are usually more expensive making it even more challenging for low income individuals to have access to the best nutritional choices for their families. As part of a food pantry, these foods now become accessible.
Food comes from manufacturers like Ronzi, Enjoy Life and Bakery on Main who donate gluten or allergy free products on a quarterly basis. Area grocery store partners, like Giant, Wegman’s, McCaffrey’s and ShopRite also supply needed items. The volunteers from Garden of Health work together with staff from each food bank to educate them on the nutritional needs in the community and which foods will work well for individuals with specific dietary concerns.
Additionally, Garden of Health provides fresh produce to low-income families and senior centers that prepare meals for their program participants. Local farms provide fresh produce as it is available and volunteers transport it to one of fifteen food pantries throughout Montgomery and Bucks counties. A newer part of their program is the development of gardens in several communities, mostly in raised beds. The staff teaches volunteers and clients how to select and care for plants that provide fresh produce throughout the growing season. Client families use the produce themselves while food grown in other gardens makes its way to various food pantries.
How to Help
If interested, you can support the mission of Garden of Health in several ways. Monetary donations are always welcome as funds are used to purchase products that are needed in each pantry. Contributions can be made online through PayPal by clicking here.
You can help as a volunteer also, especially during the summer months by picking up produce from area farms and transporting it to various pantry sites. Help is also needed with fundraising efforts, donation requests and help in the gardens during the spring and fall months. For more information, visit Garden of Health’s website at www.gardenofhealthinc.org and click on the Volunteer tab.