In a time when food stamp participation in Oklahoma is at an all-time high, Philbrook Museum of Art
announces that it will be converting its entire 3,600 square-foot south formal garden into a vegetable garden in an effort to help Oklahomas hungry get through the current economic downturn. The produce will be donated to the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, who will in turn distribute it to their 450 Partner Programs in 24 counties of eastern Oklahoma.
Philbrook has an opportunity to capitalize on an area of the gardens that was to remain empty for the 2009 growing season, said Melinda McMillan, garden manager at Philbrook Museum of Art. Continuing Waite Phillips legacy of helping Oklahomans in times of need, we are just doing our part to assist others during these tough times by planting the empty gardens with vegetables.
The need for more food is clearly evident. Agency members of the Food Bank are reporting a 40 percent increase in the number of people seeking food assistance over this time last year. The Food Bank distributed more food in March and April of this year than any other time in the Food Banks 28-year history: almost one million pounds each month. Of the nearly 8.5 million pounds of food they distributed last fiscal year, almost a million of it was fresh produce.
Fresh produce is one of the most sought-after commodities at the Food Bank, said Sara Waggoner, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. We are fortunate to be able to offer this kind of nutritious food that is grown locally and picked that very day. Philbrook is certainly setting a good example for all us backyard gardeners to follow.
Philbrook has committed to doing the hard work: digging the beds, planting the seedlings, digging weeds and watering. According to McMillan, the seeds, supplies and plants were donated. The vegetable garden, which will be designed in the French potager and English kitchen garden styles, will be both aesthetically pleasing and appetizing.
The collaboration between the Food Bank and Philbrook is a very exciting adventure and I am anxious to see the gardens grow and develop, said McMillan.
Produce planned this summer are tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, okra, watermelon and cantaloupe as well as various herbs, such as basil, oregano, parsley and thyme. What the Food Bank cannot distribute as fresh will be processed in their Culinary Center into a form that can be frozen and distributed later as part of their Value-Added Processing Program.
The Food Bank is responsible for harvesting the produce. Volunteers are needed to help with this process. Volunteers can contact Kate Pelizzoni, director of volunteer services at the Food Bank, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (918) 585-2800, ext. 112.
Everyday gardeners can help in the Philbrook and the Food Banks efforts to provide fresh produce to the hungry by participating in a program called Plant a Row for the Hungry. People can donate their excess produce each year either directly to the Food Bank or to nearby member agency. Call the Food Bank at (918) 585-2800 for more information.