On Friday, the McDowell Local Food Advisory Council will kick off a new project to support healthy eating and help young people learn about growing their own food as our community copes with the coronavirus situation.
“The Local Food Advisory Council has been working on a project to supplement and support healthful eating and learning engagement in the midst of our current state of affairs and food distribution for those experiencing need,” said Kimberly D. Freeman with Mission Hospital McDowell’s diabetes program.
Freeman is also the chairperson of McDowell LFAC’s Youth Engagement Working Group and the leader of the Bucket Garden Project. This community-wide effort is being done in response to local food needs and to encourage more growing of vegetables by individuals and families, especially during the COVID-19 situation. Through this project, leaders with McDowell LFAC will distribute buckets with soil and seeds so folks can grow their own foods and become more self-sufficient.
“The Bucket Garden is an opportunity for families to grow fresh produce at home to supplement other food sources and engage children in hands on learning with support from local experts,” said Freeman to The McDowell News. “It truly has been a collaboration of local partners.”
Nancy Spencer, owner of Spencer’s Hardware, donated a 100 five-gallon buckets and Jeff Mast from Banner Greenhouses is supplying all of the soil. The McDowell County Center of the N.C. Cooperative Extension donated the seed packets and the Master Gardeners are providing 20 seedling tomato plants and instruction for planting and care. Mission Hospital McDowell is another partner in this project.
Each garden will have a 5-gallon bucket, soil, seed packet or seedling plant, simple planting instructions, a planting journal for observations and growing successes. There will also be a local food resource guide with all of the emergency food supports in McDowell County in both English and Spanish along with information highlighting the collaboration.
“As you care for your #BucketGarden and watch it grow, take pictures of your accomplishments and milestones, post them on Facebook and be sure to include the hashtag #BucketGarden in your post,” reads a flier for the project.
The pictures will be compiled into an album and shared on the McDowell Local Food Advisory Council’s Facebook page.
The buckets will be distributed at some of the elementary school lunch pick-up locations. The first delivery is going out to Melanie Shaver, principal of Foothills Community School, and 20 buckets will be delivered there on Friday.
Leaders of this effort say it is a way to address local food needs and give young people some education and feeling of accomplishment as we all cope with the uncertainties during the COVID-19 situation.
“This came about as a way to compliment the works we are doing to distribute food and address food needs — with a focus on a longer term solution to getting fresh produce out to folks,” said Freeman to The McDowell News.
She added the goal is to engage children and students with a little science and hands-on learning and observation about planting and growing.
“We will also have seed packets available that we will distribute at the schools at the same time as the buckets to those who may already have a space or small corner to grow something. Perhaps even for the children. Hope in a time of uncertainty.”
McDowell LFAC is going to make resources available for those in the community wanting some planting tips for their own container garden. The distribution will happen over the next couple of weeks until they are gone, according to Freeman.
She added if anyone is interested in donating supplies or funds to purchase more supplies to further the numbers of children and families reached, they can contact McDowell LAFC via their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mcdowellLFAC/