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Grow a Garden, Feed the Homeless

Growing a garden seems to be one of the strangest things among the things we find difficult to do these days. It’s strange because just 100 years ago most of us could—and would—do it, and 100 years before that, most of us probably did do it simply for survival. Today the power of growing has been taken out of most of our hands, the skills lost along the way as we were ironically educated and left unable to grow our own food and feed ourselves.

At least growing food isn’t a long lost skill; plenty of people still remember how to do it, after all, and we can learn from them. While my family and I have attempted to grow vegetables every year, all we managed to pull off are enough tomatoes for a weekly salad and a handful of strawberries—really not bad, considering we’ve never learned at the knee of an older relative and definitely not in school; but we’d love to be able to make enough to actually feed ourselves without depending on the big supermarkets for fresh fruit and vegetables. We know of people who do that with less yard space than we have, so it must be able to be done!

I have heard of people taking their garden growing to an even bigger level, of people who feed not just themselves with the literal fruits of their labor, but others as well. Treehugger reported this week that people in Colorado are growing edible landscaping parks so they can harvest what they grow and donate it to local shelters and food pantries. Since these places often to not get fresh fruit and vegetables, but canned goods and days-old bread instead, this is such a gift—not just for the flavor and freshness but for the nutrition it provides as well.

Could you imagine a world where we could all pitch in like this and feed ourselves? We’d be so much healthier—and so much less dependent on our paychecks, which is probably why agriculture isn’t a big subject in school. The only thing I remember growing in school was a single bean seed for science class, and most of ours died. Like life skills (checkbook balancing, budget building, child care, cooking), agriculture should be taught in all schools; in fact, all of these subjects should be taught in all schools, since the majority of people will need them at some point or another.

And why not include homeless people in the growth and care of city gardens? Teach them skills, allow them to eat what they grow, and even offer compensation for their time, or a job offer after they learn these skills. I’m well aware that many homeless people are mentally disabled and—and they should receive medical care as such, something that universal coverage could help with—but over a million of them are children who escaped abuse at home or who were trafficked into sexual slavery. An opportunity like this could end their poverty—or at least save them from starvation.

To find out more about starting a program like this in your city, contact Grow Local Colorado.