Monthly Archives: April 2009

Michelle Obama volunteers at DC food bank

WASHINGTON (AP) — First Lady Michelle Obama is making good on her promise to actively volunteer in the Washington area, bagging food for hungry children at a local food bank on her husband’s 100th day in office.

Mrs. Obama and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, joined more than 100 congressional spouses at the Capital Area Food Bank on Wednesday, passing out packages of wheat pasta and cans of pineapple as volunteers bagged 2,000 meals for low-income kids in the area.

This is the second time the first lady has volunteered for the hungry in the District of Columbia. In March, she served lunch to the homeless at a soup kitchen.

The event was sponsored by the food bank and Feeding America, a hunger relief group.



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Food bank shows planting garden is the way to grow

Generosity and innovation are sprouting at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. With proper gardening and cooperative weather, a new garden at the food bank will brim with radishes in late May.

Kudos to Bobby Smith. The gardener and former sous chef marked Earth Day on Wednesday by planting vegetables at the distribution center at 31st Avenue and Thomas Road. Smith faced space challenges but came up with the idea to use wine barrels. If all goes well, food boxes will go beyond typical non-perishable items to include vegetables. How refreshing.

The garden could not have come at a better time, either. Demand for food at the bank has increased 80 percent. And with more people losing jobs or saving what could have been a donation to a food bank, contributions are harder to come by. The garden, however, can feed the hungry.

Then, there are the healthful benefits. Prices for fresh vegetables can make anyone blanch, even in flush times. Consider the choice many people are making between fresh vegetables, which can spoil quickly, or food items with long shelf lives.

Many people are likely to stretch their dollars by purchasing food items that can turn out several meals versus a few meals with fresh produce. The choice is better for the bottom line but not for bodies skimping on certain nutrients.

A garden can help fill that void. Smith is showing workers how to care for the crops, which will include artichokes, pumpkins, okra, squash, peppers, cucumbers and herbs. The seeds are barely planted, but the garden is already making mouths water.

Gardens are making a comeback. Michelle Obama started a garden at the White House recently. Cave Creek envisions a community garden at the site of its future wastewater plant. And a south Scottsdale woman is looking for land to build one in her community. Smith deserves gratitude for bringing one to ours.

The St. Mary’s Food Bank has a garden. It is time to roll up the sleeves and turn generosity and innovation into vegetables.

First week of growth!

First week of growth!


Filed under Events

Pairing Gardens With Food Banks

Demand at food banks has risen sharply due to the economic crisis. But fresh produce can be difficult to keep in stock at these facilities because of its price and limited shelf life. The Arizona Republic reports on one food bank that has started up its own 21-square-foot community vegetable garden this year, a project headed up by a local chef/gardener. We’ve previously covered other produce-to-food-bank initiatives here in Seattle, including a startup program to distribute seeds and gardening advice at food distribution centers, and efforts to collect fruit tree and garden excess for emergency food services.

But one factor that can put distance between fresh vegetables and the neediest people is lack of access to a kitchen. One thing we’d be interested to see: a shared kitchen facility where people without a home can prepare freshly harvested produce from a community garden. Though certainly not as efficient in terms of scale as a community feeding facility like the Langar in Delhi, it seems that a kitchen for preparing food would provide a bit of dignity, stability and choice in the lives of the people who used it. What do you think? (JL)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Food bank to grow its own

by Susan Felt – Apr. 21, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Gardener and former sous chef Bobby Smith will mark Earth Day on Wednesday by planting vegetables at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance’s 31st Avenue and Thomas Road distribution center, where food normally is gathered rather than grown.

It’s what this 40-year-old Midwest farm boy loves doing most: teaching people how to grow food in their own backyard.

In this case, his student will be Beverly Damore, director of community and marketing for the food bank that in March distributed 7 million pounds of food to the Valley’s hungry and homeless.

Smith, owner of Sustainably Yours Garden Management, is capitalizing on what Michelle Obama’s White House garden has helped make a popular pastime: backyard gardening.

When Smith approached St. Mary’s food bank with the garden idea – part of the Plant a Row Earth Day campaign to feed the hungry – he was hesitant about the location.

At the food bank’s three Valley distribution centers, extra space usually is reserved for parking, Damore said.

Smith, however, came up with an easy solution. He is planting in two large wine barrels, as gardens can do well in such containers. And it’s not too late to plant a summer garden and still harvest radishes by the end of May.

Smith will split one barrel lengthwise and the other in half, resulting in a garden of roughly 21 square feet. Smith would have liked to have planted more barrels, but was limited by available space.

“In a 10 (-foot) by 10 (-foot) space, you can rotate planting and you can feed all year long for a family of four,” he said.

Smith will rely on a compost his company produces, one that includes coffee grounds, eggshells, pineapple tops and fruit and vegetable scraps.

He’ll use heirloom seeds available at Sustainably Yours and local nurseries such as Southwest Gardener in Phoenix.

Smith will show workers how to water, fertilize, tend and harvest the summer crop of vegetables. In addition to radishes, the garden will include artichokes, pumpkins, pasilla peppers, honeydew, okra, zucchini, cucumbers, yellow squash, mustard greens, basil, oregano, thyme, parsley and crimson sweet watermelon.

The St. Mary’s “kitchen garden” will yield a 45-day supply of food beginning in late May with the radish harvest. It will continue through August when the pumpkins ripen. Once the harvest is over, Smith will replenish the soil and plant the fall garden.

Sixteen percent of the food distributed by the food bank is produce, most of which is from grocery stores, according to Damore of St. Mary’s.

“We welcome home-grown food,” Damore said, adding that the current economic downturn has increased demand 80 percent.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Suns Win … and Trader Joe’s Helps St. Mary’s

Trader Joe’s continues their outstanding support of St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance through Phoenix Suns’ victories, and presented a check for $8,000 to Food Bank Chief Development Officer Jack Marks prior to the April 13 Suns-Memphis Grizzlies game.

For the last three years, Trader Joe’s – in addition to their regular generous food donation to the member agencies – has made donation of $150 for each Suns win through the “Hoops Against Hunger” campaign totaling $38,000, enough to provide 266,000 meals through the Food Bank.

Suns forward Louis Amundson also helped Trader Joe’s contribute to the St. Mary’s fund by bagging groceries at a Surprise location in March.

St. Mary’s is indebted to Trader Joe’s and their continued efforts on the Food Bank’s behalf.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

St. Mary’s Thanks Rep. Mitchell For Donation

U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell will donate his $8,500 Congressional pay raise to 15 local charities, including St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance.

“More and more people are in need of assistance right now, and the nonprofit organizations that provide help are more important than ever,” Mitchell said.

For more information on Mitchell’s donation, log on to his website at

Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Shannon

Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Shannon


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hunger 101 – Feed Your Mind Training Schedule April 2009

Hunger 101Sure, it’s cool now, and so are you! But, being Arizona and being Phoenix… that will soon change. Why not BEAT the HEAT with Hunger 101. Be Cool, cooler than you already are that is.

Try chillin’ with Hunger 101 training sessions in April, May and June. We can’t guarantee climate control into July or August, after all this is Phoenix. We’re ready to be cool with you when you attend our April Hunger 101 training sessions listed here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized