ELKHART — As fall slips toward winter the Church Community Services’ See CCS workers and hundreds of volunteers worked throughout the summer and fall months planting, tending to and finally harvesting food from the program’s six gardens in Elkhart County.
The gardens produced 36,360 pounds of fresh produce for those needing food in the county. A total of 142,087 pounds of fresh produce and local meat was raised by, donated to or purchased through Seed to Feed in 2013, according to program co-coordinator Katie Jantzen.
“This year we tried out livestock,” Jantzen said. “The idea is, raising vegetables is great but we’d like to have a different protein source for the pantry.”
Donated cattle were raised at two properties and later sold to buy meat for the pantry. Farmers and hunters also donated meat, which was then distributed to pantry visitors.
“The food pantry clients have been really pleased with that,” Jantzen said. “In general, anywhere you are, it’s difficult to get meat in a food pantry. Most of the food drives are for canned goods.”
Also new this year were more food education classes. Seed to Feed workers prepared samples made from foods raised for the program to help people understand how best to use the food.
Cooking classes were also held off site and taught by Adam and Maggie Williams from Adam’s Bistro. The cooking classes were geared toward educating children about the food they eat.
Jantzen said the education programs are “the key to the whole thing.”
“What we provide in terms of vegetables and meat is a short-term fix,” she said. “It’s needed, but it’s a short-term-fix.”
CCS also became a distributing site for other local food pantries this year, through a partnership with the Food Bank of Northern Indiana.
Jantzen said donations met most of the program’s needs this year.
“This is something anybody can get behind,” she said. “You can’t really argue with providing local food to people here in our county that need it. It’s something people can see the value in for so many reasons.”