How Your Garden Can Save Lives

By Jordan Parker

Over most spring and summer breaks, my mom and I aim to construct a project
or do a unique activity together. A few years ago, we decided to create a garden in our
backyard. After some research and shopping, we gathered our bags of soil and seeds
and began to assemble the garden. That year we waited and waited, hoping to see
something sprout up in the garden. However, we were unsuccessful; not growing much
of anything. The next spring, we expanded the garden and focused on correctly planting
the seeds. Through trial and error, multiple tomato plants, peppers, and heads of lettuce
grew. We now are able to use our constant supply of vegetables in many of our
home-cooked meals.

Having a consistent supply of food is not something that all people are fortunate
enough to have in the United States. In fact, this is a very common problem in many
households. According to the USDA, 10.2% of households in 2021 experienced food
insecurity [4]. This means that about 13.5 million people in the United States did not
have enough food to feed themselves and their families because of their financial
situation [4,5]. People who are living under the poverty line are those that are most likely
to experience food insecurity [5]. Those who are food insecure are more likely to be
living in single-family homes, as well as in cities [5].

A study conducted by Ball State University sought to find the long-term health
issues potentially caused by food insecurity. The study found that the mortality rate for
those who are food insecure compared to those who are food secure was 58% higher
[3]. It also found that people living with food insecurity were 75% more likely to die
specifically from heart disease and cardiovascular complications [3].

The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased this problem. The shortened business
hours, supply chain issues, and lessened public transportation have made it difficult for
people in low-income situations to have access to affordable food [1]. According to the
Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, the United States could
potentially experience the highest level of poverty since 1967 [1]. This is due to the high
level of people that have become unemployed since the pandemic started [1]. When
comparing the number of people who have received charitable food assistance, there
has been a 33% increase from when the pandemic started to now [2].

While this is a major problem in the United States, many nonprofit organizations
work to get food to people that experience food insecurity. Hands-On Harvest is a
non-profit that is based out of Fairfax County and Washington D.C. This area has a
high level of poverty and many residents often go without food. The goal of Hands
On Harvest is to guide and help people to grow fresh produce, donate to food banks,
and reduce food waste. This organization believes that by reducing food waste, the
problem of food insecurity could be lowered. According to the USDA, it is estimated that 30-40% of all food in the United States is wasted. This amount of food could feed
plenty of people that are not able to receive adequate amounts of food.
So far in 2022, Hands-On Harvest has gotten 5,200 pounds of food from donations.
They are able to do this by giving people seeds to plant, as well as education on how to
sustain a garden successfully. Additionally, soil test kits can be provided. Gardening tips
are provided on their website, as well as what local food pantries are available to take
donations from a garden. Community gardens around the area also welcome volunteers
to support the cause.

If you take the time to start a garden, even a small one, it has the potential to
save someone’s life. Contact Hands on Harvest, at https://www.handsonharvests.org/,
or just go to the store and buy some seeds. A garden produces a lot of food, so you will
have plenty to take for yourself, and a great deal to take to the local food bank. By doing
this, you can make a huge difference to just one family, or potentially the whole


[1] Center, O. W. (n.d.). Sustainability volunteer program. Sustainability Volunteer
Program. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from

[2] Charitable Food Assistance Participation. Feeding America. (n.d.). Retrieved
September 30, 2022, from https://www.feedingamerica.org/research/charitable-food-access#:~:text=This%20estim

[3] Study: Food insecurity leads to long-term health issues for many Americans. (2020).
Retrieved September 18, 2022, from

[4] USDA. USDA ERS – Food Security and Nutrition Assistance. Usda.gov. Retrieved
September 18, 2022, from

[5] USDA. USDA ERS – Key Statistics & Graphics. (n.d.). Www.ers.usda.gov. Retrieved
September 18, 2022, from

Categories: Home, Lifestyle, op ed

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