The Giving Gardens Club is based at Yad Ezra, the only kosher food pantry in the country with an onsite greenhouse
By Vivian Henoch
Photography by John Hardwick
There’s no place like it. Where else but Jewish Detroit will you find a food pantry like Yad Ezra?
Google kosher food pantry: Yad Ezra is still one of a kind — the only kosher food pantry in the country with an onsite greenhouse. That greenhouse not only provides a harvest of fresh produce for its clients, it has also blossomed into the Giving Gardens Club — a full-scale community gardening resource.
Now in its second year, the Giving Gardens Club, based at Yad Ezra, provides seeds and seedlings, year-round workshops and volunteer support to home gardeners in Metro Detroit.
“As Jews, we hold the seeds of our ancient wisdom in the concept of the commons — building sustainable and resilient communities,” says Carly Sugar, Giving Gardens director. “If you’ve ever grown zucchini from a seedling, you know that just one plant will provide plenty for your family, enough to share with your neighbors and quite possibly some to spare for the food pantry down the street.
“Modeled after Keep Growing Detroit’s Garden Resource Program, the Giving Garden Club is our way of lowering barriers of entry to gardening to individuals in our area and providing more access to local, fresh, healthy produce to our community and to our food pantry.”
A Place to Dig In
As Sugar explains, Yad Ezra is “really good at doing the work” of a food pantry. By the numbers, Yad Ezra serves 1,500 client families — approximately 2,000 individuals every month — and distributes more than 1 million pounds of food a year. Working in partnership with food banks like Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest, Yad Ezra also provides fresh produce such as onions, potatoes, cabbage and fruit daily. With the addition of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation Giving Gardens project and the build-out of the Geri Lester Greenhouse in 2016, the harvest from the garden at Yad Ezra has been a game-changer.
“There are other food pantries and soup kitchens with gardens in our area and we continue to borrow from those models,” Sugar says. “We’re inspired by the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Earthworks Urban Farm and the beautiful culture they’ve built in Detroit.
“In 2018, to build our own community garden resource program, we brought in Lindsay Pielack, co-director at Keep Growing Detroit, as a consultant. Lindsay has worked in the field of community gardening and urban greening for 20 years; she is an expert in educational and family programming and has grown an amazing program, now serving more than 1,600 gardens around the city. With Lindsay’s help, we’ve taken the best of her program and adapted it to focus specifically on our client base, our volunteers and supporters in the Jewish community.”
Thanks to Jewish Detroit’s community resources, including grants from the Jeffrey Farber Family Foundation, David and Nanci Farber Family Foundation and the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation, membership to the Giving Gardens Club is free to clients of Yad Ezra and Bridge Card users, and it’s open to everyone in the community for a suggested donation of $5 to $20. The benefits of membership are plentiful and include:
• 8 varieties of seedlings and 16 varieties of seeds, grown and packaged in the Geri Lester Greenhouse. Pick up dates: Sunday, May 19, 12-2 p.m.; Monday, May 20, 10 a.m.-noon; Tuesday, May 21, 6-8 p.m.; Wednesday, May 22, 10 a.m.-noon
• Invitations to educational events and monthly workshops — fresh ideas on food prep and preservation, gardening and greening, holiday cooking and more
• Home gardening support, consultation and additional resources
• Toolshare: a “library” of gardening tools-to-go, on loan to share
To be a part of the Giving Gardens Club, fill out an application at yadezra.org/giving-gardens/get-involved or email or call Carly Sugar at email@example.com or (248) 548-3663.
This story first appeared on Federation’s myjewishdetroit.org.
Read more about Yad Ezra: Yad Ezra is Open for People Impacted by the Government Shutdown