The Relief Garden Initiative allows community members to get outside and help those in need.

Local food pantries are struggling to provide the necessary produce and food for those who need it most during the coronavirus outbreak. A new initiative from a local Jewish sustainability lab aims to change that.

Hazon Detroit, a nonprofit that works with Jewish and non-Jewish organizations to help educate the community about creating healthier and more sustainable ways of life, started their Relief Garden Initiative in late March after they noticed their partner organizations needed help.

This initiative enables anyone in the community to sign up to receive 2-5 gallon-sized buckets worth of compost and different seed packets so they can begin planting their own gardens and growing their own produce. Growers have the option of either keeping the produce for themselves or donating it to others in the community.

Wren Hack, director of Hazon Detroit, and her team personally deliver the compost buckets and three seed packets to anyone who signs up. Packets consist of cool-weather vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, beans and peas. The compost comes from their partner organizations in Detroit and their other program, Hazon’s Seal of Sustainability.

“We are asking people who already garden to enlarge their garden and grow more, and for those who have never gardened to start,” Hack said. “Once they begin harvesting the produce, they can call us and we will come pick it up and deliver it to food pantries, or they can keep it for themselves if they are in need of the food.”

As of April 17, Hack had made 65 deliveries across Metro Detroit with 15 more in the queue. Hazon has also begun planting their own produce using Summer in the City’s hoop house in Detroit (Summer in the City co-founder Ben Falik is a Jewish News contributor). 

Summer in the City’s hoop house. Courtesy of Hazon Detroit

A hoop house is a series of large hoops – made of plastic, metal or wood – covered by a heavy layer of greenhouse plastic that can be installed quickly over small to medium gardening plots. It protects your plants from wind, snow, rain and sun.

Farber Farms at Tamarack Camps has also allowed Hazon to pick up harvested greens and deliver them to food pantries around Detroit.

The food pantries that receive the harvested produce include Yad Ezra, Hospitality House in Commerce, Oakland Avenue Urban Farm in Detroit and City Covenant Church in Detroit.

“This initiative allows everyone stuck at home to get outside safely, to work in the ground and to actually produce something that can support them and support others,” Hack said. “Not only are we helping people in this time of need, we have also created a community where master gardeners want to help and reach out to those who have never gardened before.”

You can sign up to receive compost and seeds by filling out this form. You can also donate to this initiative financially.

Alex from Farber Farms donating their fresh grown produce. Courtesy of Hazon Detroit

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