Gardener plants row for hungry locals
Randy Spivey is thinking beyond his own needs as he contemplates putting in his garden for the spring and summer.
"The plan is to put in more than I can possibly eat," he said. "Last year, I gave Jodi Hitchcock some tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and everything.
"I have a good time doing it, and it's nice other people benefit."
Spivey is one of several De Soto gardeners who contribute excess produce to the De Soto Multi-Service Center's "Plant a Row for the Hungry Program," De Soto Multi-Service Center coordinator Jodi Hitchcock said.
"He's my really good pepper man," Hitchcock said.
Summer produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash were better for donations than spring vegetables because they had a longer shelf life, Spivey said. But he said the center's acquisition last year of a refrigerator helped all produce last longer.
Spivey and Hitchcock are encouraging other local gardeners to get involved in the program as the planting season starts. The produce helps stock the center's pantry during one of its peak demand times, Hitchcock said.
More food is needed for the pantry when schools are closed and the free or reduced-cost lunches served to children in low-income families is unavailable, Hitchcock said.
Just how great that demand can be is reflected in the pantry's current empty shelves. Hitchcock said the recent spring break at district schools contributed to the depleted pantry. While encouraging gardeners to consider helping with the summer's fresh produce donations, Hitchcock is also asking for food donations to help replenish the center's empty pantry.
"My shelves are bare," she said. "It's just a real tight bind right now."
Spivey said it was satisfying to help with that need during the summer from something he grew, especially knowing much of the food was going to children.
"It makes you feel good to hear it contributes," he said. "Everybody owes a debt of public service of some kind.
"Plus you get better vegetables when you grow a lot of them."