GOSHEN — The Seed to Feed program is looking to grow more fresh food to feed Elkhart County’s hungry residents, and it’s definitely needed.
That was the message Katie Jantzen gave to the monthly Sound of the Environment gathering at Goshen College Wednesday, March 6.
Jantzen, with Church Community Services, talked about the charity’s Seed to Feed program, which is in its second year, in a question-and-answer session.
Q: What is Seed to Feed?
A: It’s a program of CCS. “The recession hit hard here, and that’s especially evident in some of the lower-income neighborhoods of Elkhart,” Jantzen said. “There’s a lot of hunger and need in the county.” The CCS food pantry serves 2,300 people on average per month, and in January it served 2,928, the biggest month ever. They need more than two semi loads of food each week to meed the needs.
Q: What’s the idea behind Seed to Feed?
A: “When you think about Elkhart County, there are lots of farmers, lots of home gardeners. At the same time there are a lot of hungry people,” Jantzen said. Two farmers came up with the idea to link agriculture to the needs.
Q: What results have you seen?
A:Last year they had two garden plots, one three-acre field of potatoes and two fields of cash crops. Even with the drought, the program netted 6,941 pounds of produce, 19,000 pounds of potatoes and just shy of $50,000 from the cash crops. “That whole program in its first year was self-sustaining.” Whether people want to call it divine intervention, Jantzen said, “something was happening that was beyond our control. We ended up with enough produce that we were able to share it with not only our clients but with 10 other food pantries in the area.”
Q: How are you structuring it and planning for the second year?
A: “We’re planning, thinking about how can we meet the needs of our hungry neighbors within the county,” Jantzen said. This year they have four garden plots confirmed and a fifth one which they may get to use. The potato field is available and they hope moisture this year will double the yield. They have expanded acreage available in the two cash-crop fields, and they’re adding five to seven feeder calves on three donated acres. They’re also rolling out education programs for their clients, from recipes to gardening and cooking workshops. They’re also partnering with Elkhart General Hospital to connect nutrition experts with CCS clients. Jantzen wants to get as many clients as possible involved in the process from the field to the kitchen.
Q: What do you see as the future for this program?
A: Jantzen said they want to continue to grow it and partner more with area farmers. They also want to be able to can and freeze goods so that even as production grows, nothing goes to waste and good quality foods are available to clients in the winter months. They also want to share the model for this program with other places around the country to try to encourage other communities to match food resources with needs.
Q: How can people get involved?
A: “We really do need the help of everyone in the community,” Jantzen said. They need time, donations (money, land, ag labor, seed, fertilizer, use of farm equipment) and people to spread the word about the program. They also would love to have suggestions and ideas about how to better do the work.
To contact Jantzen, email her at email@example.com, call her at 295-3673 ext. 112, or go to churchcommunityservices.org.