The transition of Autumn into winter marks a time of year when several communities begin preparations and celebrations for a number of different year’s end feasts and festivals. Many of these special seasonal observances share very similar features, such as a period of reflection over the events of the ending year, and the optimistic acknowledgment of rebirth or regeneration going into the New Year. While this regeneration may be celebrated in a religious or secular context, that these observances happen when they do is no surprise—many of these holidays wrap up just as the spring officially arrives, heralding a time of renewal and bounty. The upcoming months are a time for many people, in the midst of the hardships that may come with winter, to think on the plenty of the spring and summer with appreciation, and reassure themselves that good times are just around the bend.
At the end of this month, many of us in the United Kingdom will observe Christmas. Both celebrations are about showing appreciation for the harvest, and acknowledging the harvest as a symbol for all of the rewards reaped during the year. At the same time, while we take a moment to recognise all of the blessings and privileges we enjoy, we also remember that there are many people going without what we consider necessities.
Hunger and poverty have increased since 2000, with around 15% of Brits at below the poverty threshold. For the millions of people struggling to stay fed, Thanksgiving can be a painful time.
So, what does this have to do with gardening?
Well. Everything, actually.
Although the growing and gardening season is over, you can still plan ahead to use next year’s garden to not only stock your pantry, but also your local food pantry. You may not realise it, but a food pantry in your area is probably interested in your bumper crop of cucumbers and asparagus.
The UK has non-profit organisation that connects gardeners with food pantries, making it easy for the home gardener to make good use of excess harvests, and making good quality local produce accessible for those in need (sadly, fresh nutritious produce is not often available at food pantries).
The site gives exposure to small and largely unpublicised pantries so that they can be located much easier by those looking to make a donation, and allows gardeners to simply enter their zip code to find the closest participating pantry. Pantries can also use the site to specify when they are accepting fresh produce donations, so gardeners know exactly where and when to go.
Participate in growing food for others
Registration and participation in this program is absolutely free for food pantries and gardeners. Food banks can a network that makes it convenient for donators and pantries to locate and work with each other. If you are interested in this program (and we hope you are!), food banks have tons of information about how to register your pantry, how to locate a participating pantry in your area, and how to prepare and deliver your produce.
There is no good reason that any edible piece of produce should end up rotting in the garden soil, so after you’ve given away or canned as much as you’re able, a food pantry will happily accept the rest. This is a win all around: good food gets to those who need it, gardeners can contribute to the community without spending extra money, and nothing usable is wasted. So, as we enter the holiday season, a time we reflect on what we have and try our best to provide for those who don’t, remember that providing for others needs to happen year-round, and this giving can be a natural part of our favourite hobbies and daily life.