Recently our friends at Hunger Free New Jersey hosted a round-table to discuss federal issues related to reducing hunger, examining ways to fight threats while advancing efforts to ensure all New Jersey residents have healthy food to eat.  The event was moderated by celebrity chef and anti-hunger activist Tom Colicchio and the participants included members of Congress, assemblymen, heads of non-profits from all over NJ along with some very brave women, who rely on social services to help them provide for their families.

What was striking to me was the very personal story told by one mother, Megan, who escaped a life of abuse along with her two young sons.  While exceedingly grateful with the assistance she received to find safe housing and SNAP benefits, she is still struggling to provide her children with nutritious food. As she explained it, she works two jobs to support her family.  Her son has a food allergy she is very careful with his meals.  “I spend my money on fresh produce and quality meats so that my sons can get the nutrition they need to be healthy,” she said, “I eat the canned goods. I don’t feed it to them.”

I think of her this morning as I look at the CFA Pantry Garden. Our organic garden is the result of the hard work of many people including CFA volunteers, Master Gardener Smadar Shemmesh, her amazing team (Master Gardener Lynette Stewart, Brian Anderson, Linda Michelson, Chelsea Gleis and the Englewood Green Team just to name a few), and the generous donations of time, energy and goods of many caring individuals and corporations.  It is early June and the garden is growing well, it will help CFA provide fresh produce to many clients who need a little extra help this summer.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. – Audrey Hepburn

For our team, it is a labor of love. Last summer Brian installed an 8-foot fence to prevent deer from entering our garden and eating away the crops that were planted in early spring. This past week with his wife Debbie, he spent an entire Friday dismantling, repairing and rebuilding the gate and picket fence that protects the Pantry Garden.

We owe so much to our volunteer-based gardening team. What they do matters. Access to fresh produce is so important to our community, and to moms like Megan.

Click here to learn more about CFA volunteer opportunities.