Low-income residents of Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties can expect a greater supply of locally grown fresh vegetables this year. Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, Triskeles, Inc. will more than double the number of community garden beds whose harvests are donated to local food pantries.
This month, Triskeles and several hundred volunteers will build 95 raised garden beds in the greater Philadelphia area. The new vegetable gardens, along with 70 beds built last year, are expected to yield upwards of 10,000 pounds of lettuce, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables.
“Too many people in our community are going hungry or are forced to rely on inexpensive, but non-nutritious food,” said Clemens Pietzner, executive director of Triskeles. “In Chester County alone, the demand for food assistance skyrocketed by 50 percent this year. Our community gardening program can help people have access to the fresh produce they need to eat a healthy diet. We are grateful for the Aetna Foundation’s support.”
Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of its regional grant making program, said, “We know that a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables can help ward off diabetes, heart disease and other chronic ailments. Yet, the people who are most at risk in our communities often have a hard time affording the kinds of foods that can benefit their health. Community gardens are a great way to make healthy food more accessible.”
To sustain the gardens, Triskeles partners with local community groups, schools, corporations and faith-based organizations. The groups help build the raised beds, which are often located on their property, and recruit volunteers to sow, water and harvest the vegetables throughout three growing seasons. Triskeles provides seeds, plants and the gardening know-how to grow bountiful harvests. The community partners commit to donating at least half of their crops to designated food pantries.