Caucus Chairmen & Hunger Advocates Highlight Successes, Challenges
HARRISBURG — Senator Mike Brubaker (R-36) and Representative Jake Wheatley (D-19), Chairmen of the Legislative Hunger Caucus, held today a groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate four successful years of the Capitol Hunger Garden and acknowledge challenges that lie ahead for its fifth growing season. (Due to the weather conditions, planting in the garden has been postponed.)
During the public event, Chairmen Brubaker and Wheatley joined with their colleagues, hunger advocates, community volunteers and master gardeners from the Penn State Cooperative Extension to mark the next season of the garden. In addition to praising the support from hunger advocates and the state Department of General Services which is instrumental in the garden’s maintenance, members highlighted efforts put forth by volunteers who plant and harvest vegetables which are donated to food banks, pantries and other local agencies.
“For over four years, this garden has provided an opportunity for individuals to generously donate their time to help feed hungry people from all walks of life in Pennsylvania communities,” Brubaker said. “I was pleased to spearhead this initiative, remain humbled by those who selflessly give of their time, and am hopeful this plot of land will continue to serve as a valuable educational tool and improve the quality of life for many,” said Brubaker.
“This marks the beginning of a fifth year of legislators and staff from both parties and the equally valued community volunteers working together to help Pennsylvanians in need,” Wheatley said. “This garden is an ever-present reminder that too many of our neighbors across the state struggle just to put food on the table.”
Brubaker and Wheatley also recognized the advocates present for the event such as the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Feeding Pennsylvania. These organizations underscored their ongoing commitment to promoting hunger awareness and addressing food insecurity – the mission of the garden – and echoed the significance of this project.
Joe Arthur, Executive Director of Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, noted: “It is truly inspiring to work with the Legislative Hunger Caucus Leadership, Penn State Master Gardeners, and volunteers to grow beautiful vegetables for Pennsylvanians in need and also set a wonderful example of how to help in our mission.”
“Today, with one in seven Pennsylvanians at risk of hunger, our food banks throughout the Commonwealth continue to see high levels of demand for emergency food assistance,” said Caryn Long, Executive Director of Feeding Pennsylvania. “Thanks to the abundance of produce harvested annually from the Capitol Hunger Garden, our food banks are able to help meet this need by providing fresh, nutritious foods to Pennsylvanians who might otherwise go without. In addition to helping to feed those in need, this garden also provides a valuable service by raising awareness about the issue of hunger throughout Pennsylvania.”
Since its inception in 2010, the garden has annually produced over 800 pounds of vegetables for low-income residents. This year, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank and Feeding Pennsylvania donated funds to replace equipment for the irrigation and fertilization necessary to operate the garden. Additionally, the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association contributed funding to purchase seeds and plants.
The Downtown Daily Bread, a soup kitchen located in Harrisburg which serves the hungry, is one of the benefactors of the garden and utilizes the bounty of produce in its meals for the needy and homeless. However according to the Hunger Caucus Chairs, many food banks and charitable organizations are stretching their resources to assist those individuals most in need; likewise, the Hunger Garden also faces challenges in its day-to-day operations, such as in the recruitment of volunteers, and will continue to do so in the months ahead.
“With continued high rates of hunger across this Commonwealth, it has never been more critical for every Pennsylvanian to do their part to help fight hunger. That’s why I ask for the support of our colleagues and others from the community to help volunteer with the planting, maintenance and harvest of this garden,” added Brubaker. “Together, the benefits of this commitment will extend far beyond this land.”
Brubaker founded the Legislative Hunger Caucus four years ago and has since worked collaboratively with Wheatley, the Governor’s office and other members of the General Assembly. The caucus is a bipartisan group of state lawmakers who partner with the community to address hunger and its underlying causes.
Those interested in donating time to or supplies for the Hunger Garden are encouraged to contact Brubaker at his district office by calling (717) 627-0036. Progress and updates on the garden can also be found on Twitter at @PAHungerGarden.