Written by Ann Marie Murphy
Many OSU Extension programs expand community capacity to help address a critical local or statewide need. A prime example of this is the Seed to Supper program, a partnership between OSU Extension and the Oregon Food Bank.
The poverty rate in Oregon – 16.2% – remains above the national average and more than 600,000 Oregonians lived below the poverty line, an official definition that some believe is outdated and underestimates what it takes to truly make ends meet. Personally, I can’t imagine a family of four making ends meet with a household income of $24,230. According to a 2015 Oregon Center for Public Policy fact sheet, poverty is higher than in the 2007–2009 Great Recession. Children and communities of color are more likely to live in poverty.
The goal of Seed to Supper is increased food security of low-income audiences by providing training in beginning vegetable gardening. In other words, helping people learn to grow their own food to stretch limited budgets and increase access to healthy, low-cost foods.
Seed to Supper is a series of five or six free vegetable gardening classes offered in English and Spanish and taught by Extension-trained Master Gardeners or those with a strong horticultural background. The number of people attending Seed to Supper classes is well on its way to reaching 1,000. Course topics include garden site and soil development, garden planning, planting, garden care, harvesting, and container gardening. Participants learn where to get free and reduced-cost soil, compost, seeds, starts, trellis materials, mulch, tools, garden space and OSU Extension gardening publications.
Seed to Supper classes must be offered free of charge to all participants and program guidelines indicate classes should be hosted by community-based agencies that serve primarily a low-income audience.
Started in Linn and Benton counties, the program has expanded around the state and most recently was adopted by Yamhill County. Survey data from the first cohort indicates that 92% reported a reduction in their food bill and an 80% increase in consumption of vegetables. Having developed a garden in a 12-by-12-foot community garden plot, I know how empowering it is – accompanied by a great sense of satisfaction – to create a meal from the fruits (so to speak) of my labor.
“I absolutely loved this class! It is such an amazing resource . . . It gave me confidence and know-how to really give a vegetable garden a go for the first time and I plan to continue it.”
“Almost every meal has had food from our garden.”
“My granddaughter and I now do some gardening together . . .”
“[Seed to Supper] gives people a sense of control over their food sources.”
Have you grown your own fruits and vegetables?