July 8 at 11:58pm

Planting Solutions For Hunger

Last fall, a local survey of 1,400 people in North County found that 87 percent were considered “food insecure” – meaning, they did not have steady access to enough food for a healthy, active life.

In particular, more than 80 percent reported not having enough money to purchase the fresh produce and meat they would like, while two-thirds said they had difficulty just getting fresh vegetables.

Adding fresh produce to the plates of people in need is a challenge Interfaith Community Services plans to tackle this summer with the creation of a network of community gardens to supply local pantries with fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Our goal is to have fresh fruits and vegetables available for all our clients,” said Laura Cardona, Interfaith’s special projects coordinator.

“Whenever we do a food drive, we have to ask for non-perishable food because storage is an issue. We’d love to be able to give fresh fruits and vegetables to people who need it, but we just don’t have them on a regular basis. That’s where the gardens come in.”

And the first garden is already getting underway.

Temple Adat Shalom [link] in Poway is in the process of beginning the first of these gardens. The idea germinated with Rabbi David Castiglione upon his arrival at the temple three years ago when he looked at a lot of unused land surrounding the building.

“I knew we wouldn’t be able to build on it for some time. Seeing it not used, laying fallow, seemed sinful when we’re seeing so many people having trouble [getting enough food],” Castiglione said. “The thought of coming up with some kind of victory garden made sense.”

So the Rabbi recently brought the idea to Interfaith’s Executive Director, Richard Batt.

“We realized they have residents, specifically veterans, who really do need to have the kind of activities that tending a garden would provide,” explained Castiglione. “The garden serves threefold purposes: 1) It allows us to participate in this particular mitzvah (righteous deed); 2) It gives Interfaith residents the ability to do a mitzvah not only for themselves, but also for the community; and 3) It feeds the hungry.”

Interfaith’s goal is to establish 10 gardens this year. The different faith centers or businesses would provide the land, establishing a small Garden Committee, and provide volunteers.

Interfaith is also looking for experienced gardeners to share their knowledge for the project and also, of course, is looking for donations of gardening materials, plants, seeds, and tools.

Castiglione hopes to get the garden started at Temple Adat Shalom within the next couple of months.

“There has been a lot of excitement generated here. Our hope is that other faith centers will run with the ball,” he said. “It’s something that’s easy to do, doesn’t cost a lot and serves a great purpose.”

To get involved, contact Laura Cardona at 760-489-6380, ext. 214.