Frederick Food Security Network sees spike in demand for community garden produce

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FREDERICK, Md (WDVM) — As carrots and cabbage begin to sprout at the community garden on the Hood College campus, Claire Hudson is just one of many member within the Frederick Food Security Network (FFSN) putting their green thumbs to work.

“We grow about 37 different varieties of vegetables collectively throughout the community gardens and our greenhouses,” said Hudson. She currently serves as interim manager of the FFSN.

Every single bit of produce goes from the ground and into the hands of 160 Frederick families, some living in food deserts. 

“We have several food deserts, mostly in downtown,” Hudson explained, “We have some that are north of the county as well but certainly they’re there and with closings at the moment during the pandemic, we’re facing a higher amount of areas that are kind of food deserts overnight.”

60 to 100 pounds of food is harvested every week from five community gardens and two greenhouses run by partners like the Islamic Society of Frederick and the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs. 

None of it is going to waste as many more families are seeking food assistance. 

“From March to May, we’ve seen a 60 percent increase in the people who are coming to receive the free produce and about 40 to 50 percent of those people are new, they’ve never registered to receive any of the produce so the need has increased sharply,” Hudson said.

As the season changes into summer, the hope is to harvest closer to 100 pounds of produce and resume all community gardening as restrictions continue to ease. 

For now, demand is high and Hudson says many community members are reaching out in the hopes of tapping into the food resource. 

Jordan Heerbrandt is a garden coordinator with the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick and while the organization oversees two different community gardens, those plots are currently empty. 

“There are a lot of families that wanted to do plots in the garden but since we couldn’t congregate, we were unable to turn the plots over and make a garden,” Heerbrandt said, “That lack of food sovereignty made me feel like I could reach out and find some kind of other local produce to give to them.”

Heerbrandt got in touch with Hudson and now once a week, she hauls food from the community gardens to give to families of the Lucas Village public housing community.

Seven families come by to pick up bags of lettuce, strawberries and other freshly-picked vegetables to take home. Once a month, Heerbrandt leads a video call where she teaches the families a recipe that incorporates the produce.

“This is what families want and need when it comes to cooking fresh food for your kids. People are spending a lot of time at home and if they don’t have access to a grocery store and they can only get what’s donated to the housing authority, I mean this is what they’re lacking,” Heerbrandt said. 

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