It is early April and Ellen Kirby is standing in a field of rye and vetch surveying the land. It is a cold spring afternoon and a steady wind is blowing, creating ripples in the cover crops.
Ellen and fellow volunteer Patsy Dwiggins are thrilled that the rye and vetch have taken. These cover crops will be plowed under in the next week or so, adding vital nutrients to the soil.
For almost 20 years, these three large fields behind Crossnore School near downtown Winston-Salem have been producing food for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina. Known as the Betty and Jim Holmes Food Bank Garden, these plots produce thousands of pounds of much needed fresh food for Second Harvest to distribute.
Ellen and Patsy are among the nearly 30 core volunteers that make this garden happen; planting and tending and harvesting beans, corn, squash, okra, and more. These vegetables will get distributed through Second Harvest to our 450 partner nonprofits across 18 counties, who run soup kitchens, kids cafes, summer meals sites, pantries, and more in their local communities.
It is amazing to think that a seed pressed into the soil here will become a meal on a struggling family’s dinner table by the end of the season somewhere in Northwest North Carolina; perhaps in Burlington or Wilkesboro, Boone or Statesville, or even right here in Winston-Salem.
More than simply food, what is grown in the Food Bank Garden is providing not only calories but vital, whole nutrition. Thanks to small farming techniques, the Food Bank Garden can provide Second Harvest with produce that has a higher nutritional value and lower spoilage rate than other sources. Anyone who has eaten a homegrown tomato can tell you that not all vegetables are created equal–not in taste, nor in nutritional value.
All of this matters deeply, as food insecurity in North Carolina is as much about the quality of the food a family can afford as it is about the quantity of food. Faced with ever-tightening food budgets, Northwest North Carolina families are often forced to choose lower-cost, less nutritious food over food that not only feeds their stomachs but also feeds their health and future.
Just like the rye and vetch are feeding the soil here at the Food Bank Garden, wholesome food feeds the long term health of our communities. It is people like Ellen and Patsy who understand these vital connections between hunger and health and set about nearly every Saturday to do something about it.