It’s March, and with the days starting to get a little longer and glimpses of sunshine coming through, it’s time to think about gardening. Many of us set out to eat healthier and exercise at the beginning of the year, and gardening is a great way to accomplish both of those goals. Are you aware that a poor diet and lack of exercise are key contributors to chronic diseases that are responsible for 75% of health care expenditures and 70% of deaths in the United States? It is within our control to change these statistics for ourselves and our community!
Gardening is a moderate physical activity that can burn up to 330 calories per hour. And enjoying time outdoors, connecting with nature is a rewarding way to relax and improve overall emotional health. While the benefits of exercise are great, starting with a good diet is imperative to good health. I’ve seen first-hand how my grandchildren enjoy vegetables they might not otherwise consider eating when they have a hand in growing and harvesting the produce.
The benefits of gardening are numerous, and they don’t stop at our personal health. By signing up with Neighbors Nourishing Communities (NNC) and donating a portion of your produce to the Tualatin Food Pantry, you get gardening advice, the opportunity to learn about new and more nutritious produce we can grow in our region, free plants and seeds, and the “feel good” benefit of helping our community. Whether you are passionate about gardening or just experimenting and getting started, this is an opportunity for you to achieve your personal goals while helping others.
Neighbors Nourishing Communities is a Tualatin non-profit organization entering its 7th growing season. We supply the seeds and plant starts, and you supply the garden spot at a convenient home or office location. With a little water and some love – we all benefit with a bounty of organically grown, beautiful produce. We ask that you donate 20% of your harvest to the Tualatin Schoolhouse Pantry for families in need. The other 80%, along with the rewards of a healthy garden and healthier you – are all yours! Last year NNC gardeners donated over 4,300 pounds of produce!
I’ve personally always enjoyed gardening but have grown the basics like tomatoes and cucumbers. Through working with NNC, I’m now growing purple potatoes, leeks, red onions, lettuce, kale and more. It is fun, and so nutritious to pick a salad from my garden, knowing that the produce is at the peak of nutritional value and organically grown. My grandkids come over and the first question they ask is “Nana, what can we harvest today?” Any size of garden works, whether it’s a single container or a full backyard garden.
Many gardeners pick their donation produce on Sunday and drop it by an NNC collection site. NNC makes deliveries to the Tualatin Food Pantry, where the produce is quickly distributed to those in need. Gardeners harvest the rest of the week for their own family. It’s that simple. Fresh produce is more costly than less-nutritional food, and can be unobtainable for many families. This is an opportunity to help combat a growing need.
NNC will be handing out seeds (from beans to zucchini), onion starts, and seed potatoes on Apr. 11, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at 17660 SW Shawnee Trail, Tualatin to gardeners willing to donate 20% of their produce. The organization has partnered with MITCH Charter School where students are growing many varieties of tomato and pepper starts as a school project. Senior gardeners at Brookdale River Valley Tualatin will be raising plant starts such as flowers and herbs for your garden. These plants will be handed out to NNC gardeners in May.
Families struggling to make ends meet can also contact Neighbors Nourishing Communities for gardening assistance. The organization supports families in need by providing free community gardening beds and tools, along with plants and seeds.