(03/10/22) WINNSBORO, La. — Louisiana has some of the highest rates of both food insecurity and obesity in the country. More than 1 in 10 American households face food insecurity in a nation where up to 40% of the food supply goes to waste, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Food pantries and other charitable food distributors work to provide healthy food to their clients, but fresh fruits and vegetables are often not available. The LSU AgCenter hopes to address food waste and healthy food access through its new Grow a Row to Share program.
“Last year I received several calls from gardeners wanting to know how and where they could donate produce,” said Cecilia Stevens, AgCenter local food systems coordinator. “There was no system in place to connect gardeners and distributors. And food safety was a large concern.”
Grow a Row to Share guides home gardeners and charitable food partners through the process of growing, harvesting, and safely distributing fresh produce. AgCenter food safety specialist Achyut Adhikari and local food systems specialist Makenzie Miller will assist Stevens in training participants.
The requirements for the program are simple. Home gardeners sign up, then receive food production and safety information from the AgCenter. The gardeners are matched with participating charitable food agencies in their area and learn the days and time for food collection.
“Any amount of produce can be donated,” Stevens said. “You can designate a row, a single day’s harvest or even an entire garden to the program.”
Charitable food partners receive training resources on safe food handing, storage and distribution. Both the home gardeners and the charitable food distributors receive signage acknowledging that they are a Grow a Row to Share partner.
"Grow a Row to Share is launching as a pilot program in four northeastern parishes, but any interested gardener or charitable food partner can use our guides to create their own program," Stevens said.
Grow a Row to Share is part of the LSU AgCenter Healthy Communities initiative and made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In October 2021, the Delta Master Gardeners donated watermelons and winter squash from their fall harvest to local food pantries. Photo by Cecilia Stevens/LSU AgCenter
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture