Planting seeds to fight food insecurity

Today’s kickoff for the 11th season of the Capitol Hunger Garden, located on a 1,000-square-foot plot in the area between the Main Capitol Building and the Ryan Office Building on the Capitol grounds, drew attention to the continuing plight of food insecurity in Pennsylvania that was magnified over the past year by Covid.

First conceived in 2008 by a bipartisan caucus of state House and Senate members, the goal then and now has been to create a garden that would provide healthy food for those in need while raising awareness about hunger issues in the state. Today, the Pennsylvania Legislative Hunger Caucus is led by Deputy Senate President Pro Tempore Elder Vogel Jr. (R-47) and Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-19), who work with caucus members to address the issues faced by the 1.4 million people in Pennsylvania who face food insecurity.

“We want to create an environment that no child, no family goes hungry,” Wheatley said.

The garden is planted, weeded, and harvested by volunteers from the Master Gardener program of the Penn State Cooperative Extension. Seeds and plants are provided by the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers. Hundreds of volunteers have helped to produce more than 700 pounds of produce each year that is donated to Downtown Daily Bread for its soup kitchen.

Susan Cann, director of development for Downtown Daily Bread, said the garden is a “bright spot of collaboration and community” and that the bounty of cabbages, beans, potatoes, peppers, and more provided nutrition and color to the more than 3,000 meals served each month at the soup kitchen.

With more than 53,000 farms in Pennsylvania, Jane Clements, executive director of Feeding Pennsylvania, stressed that no one in the state should ever have to go hungry. “More than a million people in Pennsylvania who don’t have access to enough food, and it’s our obligation to make sure that they do,” she said.