During times of social distancing and sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, members of the community are coming together to help put food on the tables of those in need.
The Food Pantry of Highlands, Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry, and the Many Hands Peace Farm have invited members of the Highlands-Cashiers community to “Plant for the Plateau” this summer.
Project coordinator Kat Ford said, in the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, numerous families face food insecurity.
“Many people struggle to make ends meet with our area’s slower economy during the winter months and when unexpected events, like the COVID-19 pandemic, arise,” Ford said in a written statement. “During the summer months planting fresh vegetables to donate to the food pantries allow these organizations to allocate those needed dollars towards other products.”
This year, to create a community effort to plant, these organizations are encouraging everyone to “Pledge, Plant, Email and Harvest.”
Marty Rosenfield, Director of the Food Pantry of Highlands, encouraged all community members to participate.
“In Macon County 20 percent of the population faces food scarcity 365 days of the year and you would be making a difference,” he said.
According to the FDA, the national average for food insecurity is about 11.1 percent as of 2018.
“Western North Carolina’s average is closer to 20 percent, including both Macon and Jackson counties,” Ford said.
The idea is simple, pledge and plant one or more of the following needed crops: tomatoes, squash, peppers, corn, onions, potatoes, carrots and beans. Then, email a list of the vegetables you pledge to grow to PlantForThePlateau@gmail.com. Include the date planted, expected harvest date, and whether you plan to donate to the food pantry in Highlands or Cashiers.
This information will then be added to a live Google document for both pantries to access so they can keep an eye on projected inventory and consider this while budgeting. Then, harvest and deliver your crops.
“The biggest challenge we face is providing healthy, fresh items. We can assure everyone involved, the produce will help these families through this difficult time,” said Bill Fehrs with Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry in Cashiers.
To encourage community gardening, a Facebook group named “Plant for the Plateau” is available, where local farmers and gardeners, including the farmers of the Many Hands Peace Farm, can share tips and tricks.
If you would like to join the effort but don’t have room to plant a garden, the Many Hands Peace Farm has field space to plant but needs your help, Ford said. Located at The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center, the Many Hands Peace Farm is an educational farm dedicated to teaching apprentices and guests about the concepts and techniques of regenerative agriculture. Members of the plateau eager to lend an extra hand can contact the MHPF at 828-526-5838. “We’re excited to join in this effort to share some of the abundance we have in our community,” said Joey Kyle, manager of the Many Hands Peace Farm “And it’s a great opportunity to come together as growers and share any tips, experiences, and inspiration.”
Don’t like the idea of dirt underneath your fingernails?
“There are still plenty of ways to help. Both the Food Pantry of Highlands and Fishes and Loaves Food Pantry are always in need of volunteers and donor dollars,” Ford said.