DelVal receives a $46,000 grant to expand Hope of the Harvest
According to the Hunger Nutrition Coalition of Bucks County, “97 percent of food pantry clients go without fresh fruits and vegetables if their local food pantry has none.”
A $46,000 grant from The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), a national leader in the financing of neighborhood revitalization, will help expand Hope of the Harvest, a project at Delaware Valley College that grows fresh produce for area food pantries. The funding will allow Hope of the Harvest to produce more food during the traditional growing season, and also start growing food year-round in campus greenhouses.
“There is a gap in the availability of fresh produce for low-income residents in this region after the traditional growing season ends,” said Delaware Valley College Dean of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Russell Redding. “This grant is going to allow us to help close this gap and provide healthy, fresh produce throughout the winter and spring months.”
The College is using the funding to convert two campus high tunnel greenhouses, so that they can be used to produce food during the winter, and to upgrade one greenhouse for winter transplant production, so that more plants will be ready to go into the ground when the growing season starts.
Hope of the Harvest was started in 2012 by a group of students who were concerned about hunger in the community. Today, it is a partnership between Delaware Valley College, Philabundance, and the Bucks County Opportunity Council (BCOC). Philabundance and BCOC help with volunteer coordination and distribute the food to cupboards, shelters, emergency kitchens, and more in Bucks County, Philadelphia, and the Greater Philadelphia region.
The food goes to vulnerable populations, such as those with physical disabilities or mental illnesses, as well as residents and families slipping through the hunger safety net. Of those served by Philabundance, 23 percent are children and 16 percent are senior citizens.
“The Reinvestment Fund is such a great community partner and is truly committed to improving neighborhoods across the region,” said Bill Clark, president and executive director of Philabundance. “We are so thankful for their support of Hope for the Harvest because without this garden, there would be many more neighbors in the Delaware Valley without access to nutritious, local produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables are often the first thing cut from the grocery list when money gets tight because fresh food is often expensive and does not last very long. Hope for the Harvest will be able to grow that produce for people who need it most year-round thanks to TRF.”
In its first year, the project produced nearly 16,000 pounds of produce with one acre on the College’s main campus. In 2013, the garden expanded to three acres split between DelVal’s main campus and its Roth Center for Sustainable Agriculture in North Wales, Pa.
The College is estimating that the greenhouse improvements will produce approximately 4,800 pounds of additional much-needed produce for pantries during the winter and spring months during the second year. During the first, year, this winter, the College is estimating 1,000 pounds of food will be grown during the winter and spring in the greenhouses.
The College anticipates renovations will be complete by March 2014. DelVal’s goal is to begin growing some crops in the greenhouses this winter to allow for a late spring harvest. Redding said the grant will not only help feed people in the community, but also help the College prepare leaders who are ready to take on community challenges.
“The garden allows the students to use what they learn in class to solve a community problem, which is a critical part of education and a cornerstone of the DelVal experience,” said Redding. “This student involvement provides fresh fruits and vegetables necessary for good nutrition, while developing a future generation of problem solvers engaged in the fight against hunger.”
Members of the community are invited to volunteer and attend educational programs related to the garden. To learn more visit: delval.edu/about-delval/community-connection/hope-of-the-harvest/