>Western Tribune Column April 29, 2009 Alabama Victory Gardens

>This is my column from this week’s Western Tribune. For more information, contact me.

Alabama Victory Gardens

Recently we learned that donations to area food banks are down at a time when their services may be more in need. As Bessemer’s unemployment, currently at 13.1 %, continues to rise, more people in our area will become dependent on charitable organizations for their food.

Food security or lack thereof, is certainly an issue that is gaining in importance. Food security is defined as the “situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe , and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Charitable food banks help to address this problem.

First lady Michelle Obama has established a Victory Garden at the White House and in doing so has set an example that we should all follow. Many of us have backyard gardens where we grow too many tomatoes and squash for our own families. Through simple sharing or through the development of networks this excess produce could be used to provide nutritious food for our friends and neighbors.

But there is another solution to the problem of food insecurity, and that is community vegetable gardening.

An urban garden is nothing new to the Birmingham area, as Jones Valley Urban Farm has been growing vegetables in downtown Birmingham for years.

But why not empower community members and supply them with the training and resources to establish gardens in their neighborhoods from which they could feed themselves and their needy neighbors?

Alabama Victory Gardens (AVG) is an organization with such a goal. The group plans to establish at least five community gardens in the Bessemer area this year, but has a goal of 100 such gardens within two years.

AVG is partnering with community organizations and faith based institutions to introduce the program and is currently identifying potential garden sites and making arrangements to use the properties.

In addition to providing fresh and healthy food, AVG plans to make these gardens sustainable by selling a portion of the produce. Wouldn’t a Farmer’s Market for local produce be a good idea for Bessemer?

Money raised will help defray the costs of running the gardens.

Alabama Victory Gardens is but one piece of a puzzle that must be completed to solve the problems of food insecurity in our area. Let’s hope the weather cooperates and the harvests are bountiful.

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