For the 2015 growing season, Triskeles, Inc., and an army of volunteers will maintain nearly 400 raised garden beds in the Greater Philadelphia area.
Thanks in part to a $50,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, these gardens will provide an even greater supply of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to 19 food pantries in Chester, Montgomery, Delaware and Philadelphia counties.
In March, Triskeles and several hundred volunteers will install 60 new raised garden beds and prepare the existing beds in the greater Philadelphia area. The new vegetable garden beds, along with the beds built in the last three years, are expected to yield upwards of 20,000 pounds of fresh, nutrient-rich food to be donated to area food pantries.
“Too many people in our community are going hungry or are forced to rely on inexpensive, but non-nutritious food,” said Clemens Pietzner, executive director of Triskeles. “In Chester County alone, the demand for food assistance has skyrocketed by 50 percent. Our community gardening program can help people have access to the fresh produce they need to eat a healthy diet. We are grateful for the Aetna Foundation’s support.”
To sustain the gardens, Triskeles partners with local community groups, schools, corporations and faith-based organizations. The groups help build the raised beds, which are often located on their property, and recruit volunteers to sow, water and harvest the vegetables throughout three growing seasons. Triskeles provides seeds, plants and the gardening know-how to grow bountiful harvests. The community partners commit to donating at least half of their crops to designated food pantries, but every year more than 90 percent of the harvest has actually been donated.
“The beauty of our program is that it is self-sustaining,” said Pietzner. “We provide the basic infrastructure and training to start the gardens, and our community partners take the ball and run with it. There really is no limit to how many people can get involved with growing their own healthy food and sharing it with their neighbors who are in need.”
The Triskeles community garden initiative began in early 2012 with 70 raised garden beds and 10 community partners. By the 2014 season, the nonprofit sustained 347 raised garden beds with the help of 24 partners. Organizations sponsoring the gardens include the Vanguard Group, Inc., QVC, Drexel University, SAP and 20 others from businesses, colleges, civic organizations and faith communities.