SHIM plans garden to benefit food pantry families

Published Mar 20, 2013 at 10:46 am (Updated Mar 21, 2013 at 11:34 am)

For the second year in a row, the front lawn of South Hills Interfaith Ministries (SHIM) will be transformed into a garden that will provide produce for the approximately 300 families served by SHIM’s food pantry.

An informational “Lunch and Learn” was held at SHIM’s offices March 16 for folks interested in helping out with this year’s garden, and for those interested in learning a few tips and tricks from seasoned gardeners. SHIM staff and volunteers prepared a light lunch featuring two types of soup, apple salad, breads and desserts.

The garden proved to be a success last year, yielding about 1,600 pounds of food, said Doris Nagel, program director at SHIM. The garden, known as Boaz Fields, after the generous landowner in the Book of Ruth, will once again be chaired by Jim Stafford and Pat Eagon of Scott Township and Becky Henninger of Mt. Lebanon.

Eagon, who led the presentation, said the goal of the garden is to “provide fresh produce to our food pantry families.” The garden, which was started last year with funds from a Seed Grant from the United Methodist Foundation, enables families to receive the fresh produce that is otherwise too expensive or hard to come by, even in season.

“It was remarkably productive for its size,” Eagon said of last year’s garden. “Generally speaking, everything we planted grew very well.”

Last year, the garden included tomatoes, zucchini, chard, lettuce, beans, beets, basil and parsley. In addition to those vegetables, this year the garden will also include tomatillos, lemongrass and a variety of peppers. Perennials were also planted around the garden to attract pollinators. Eagon added that many of the plants were donated to SHIM. “People even left them on the doorstep,” Eagon said.

“I love gardening,” said Denise Conway of Bethel Park, who gardens at home and plans on helping out with the SHIM garden this year. “I thought this would be great.”

“We want to learn,” said Patti Pratt of Bethel Park, who added that she and her husband Harley are “novice gardeners.” Harley said his family always had a garden when he was growing up and his family canned a lot of the produce they grew.

Bob Nolin of Bethel Park said he and his wife are thinking of starting a garden and that his family also had a garden when he was young.

“I have a green thumb. I think this would be something I would enjoy doing,” he said of volunteering at SHIM’s garden. “It’s a good way to get outdoors and help people. What would be better?”

Nagel added that the success of last year’s garden proved to be inspirational for area churches. She said St. Joan of Arc in Library, St. David’s Episcopal Church in Peters Township and Bower Hill Community Church in Mt. Lebanon are all planning gardens for this year. The produce grown at the church gardens will also go to SHIM families who utilize either the Bethel Park center or the Prospect Park site.

For those interested in volunteering at SHIM’s Boaz Fields, volunteer orientation and training will take place at 10 a.m. April 13 at the SHIM Center on Park Avenue in Bethel Park. The blessing of the garden will be held at 2 p.m. May 19. Planting will also begin that day.

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