Community garden, church collaborate to feed thousands

Henderson Park Community Garden Club celebrated its fifth anniversary in April. Photo provided

Community gardens are used by some people as an option to access food outside of grocery shopping.

Community gardens are also used for giving back to those in need. In its five years of existence, Henderson Park Community Garden has had a partnership with Friends of St. Martin de Porres food ministry at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Tucker.

Founded in 2010, Henderson Park Community Garden is one of the first 100 percent organic gardens in DeKalb County. The garden consists of 55 plots, including four that are specifically for growing vegetables and herbs for the food ministry.

“Friends of St. Martin de Porres’ food ministry at Holy Cross Catholic Church is the closest food pantry to the garden, and the only one in Tucker,” said Cara Schroeder, community liaison director for Henderson Park Community Garden.

The mission of the garden is to “strengthen community, enable the cultivation and consumption of wholesome, homegrown food, provide an environment for hands-on education in organic gardening, foster an intergenerational gardening experience and enhance the beauty of neighborhood greenspace.”

Schroeder said it is recommended that a community garden share its surplus vegetables and fruits with those in the community. The garden partnered with the food ministry because of its proximity and the needs in the community.

“The Henderson Park Community Garden is all about sharing our surplus and sharing other opportunities to expand into growing fruits and vegetables and sharing information,” she said. “In the end, it was just one of those things that evolved because they are the closest food pantry. We have 12 volunteers who look over those [four] plots. We have two volunteers who pick up fruits and vegetables from the garden and deliver them to St. Martin de Porres on Tuesdays.”

Sam Taylor, who volunteers with Friends of St. Martin de Porres, said the garden has donated more than 3,300 pounds of food in the past four years.

Since 1982, Friends of St. Martin de Porres food ministry has operated a food pantry that feeds the homeless and provides nutritious food items to school children in need. It provides food for more than 3,500 people “in crisis” each month, according to the church’s website.

“In 2014, we provided food to about 7,500 families,” Taylor said.

The garden also has perimeter beds that Schroeder said she uses to grow fruits and vegetables all year-round for the food pantry.

“That’s one of my little volunteer happy hats that I wear because I can harvest my vegetables and take them to the food pantry,” she said. “They are a fabulous food pantry. When we started working with them five years ago, from my understanding, they were serving about 420 families a week.

Now, their numbers are about 620 a week. There is a lot of need in this community.”

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