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Metro Detroit volunteers help families grow produce for local food pantries

Agency Hazon helps grow fruits, vegetables during COVID-19 pandemic

DETROIT – A group of Metro Detroit volunteers spent their spring teaching families how to grow fresh fruits and vegetables to be donated to food pantries.

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Back in April, members of Agency Hazon came up with an idea for a “relief garden.”

“Food pantries are low on what they’re getting,” said minister Antonio Hill, from Detroit’s Transforming Love Church. “They’re limited on what they’re getting, especially in the field of produce.”

The goal is to grow fruits and vegetables for Detroiters in need during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is our way of getting people to go outside, getting people involved with the earth, and for a good reason -- to be able to not only support themselves with food and fresh produce, but also to support their neighbors,” Hill said.

“As we were delivering our compost and seeds, we saw people coming out of their doors in two different occasions,” said Wren Hack, executive director of Agency Hazon. “Individuals were coming out of the doors with produce in their hands and walking across the street or next door to give them their produce that they had picked up or had extra. You don’t see that normally. We’re not in the normal world.”

Volunteers deliver five-gallon buckets of fertilizer and packets of vegetable seeds to families across the area. Then, they show them how to grow everything by themselves.

When the food is ready, those volunteers pick it up and bring it to food pantries or families in need.

“These families -- and many of them obviously have children -- they’re simply not getting enough to give a nutritious meal, and we know nutrition is key in fighting COVID-19,” Hack said.

Since the spring, the garden relief initiative has taken off. Produce has been delivered to more than 400 homes, in addition to food pantries. The group is also working on food rescue. It has recovered nearly 23 tons of food in about two weeks, including 12,000 pounds of chicken and 46 cases of canned goods.

Volunteers are now thinking ahead to make sure they’re ready to deal with what happens in the fall and winter to make sure they have food supplies ready.


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