What better way to follow an atmospheric river than with our Spring Gardening Guide!
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The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a bright light on the inequities in our food system. Poorer neighborhoods are often described as food deserts..."nothing but fast food & liquor stores" as Ron Finley describes. Diets with little fiber or nutrients lead to preventable diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. And COVID-19 is most deadly to people struggling with these health conditions. The link between death and food has never been more apparent.
Long lines at food distribution sites, like the Samaritan House here in San Mateo, are keeping our struggling neighbors from going hungry. We owe a great deal of gratitude to Samaritan House and the 2nd Harvest Food Bank for rising to the challenge caused by this unprecedented pandemic. But we must go beyond providing a quantity of food to providing access to a quality of food that is locally grown and nutrient dense.
Our small project, the We GROW for the Pharmacy project, provides an additional way for members of the community to help our less fortunate neighbors. Monetary donations and volunteering will always be the priority - and if you'd like to learn more about how you can help - please click here.
But unlike the experience of making a monetary donation, many local gardeners who donate to the Food Pharmacy through our project feel a closer connection to the actual recipients who benefit from their harvest. Living and growing in an optimal microclimate that allows year-round harvests - San Mateo gardeners can directly help nourish and improve the health of their neighbors. To say that's rewarding is an understatement.
The other existential crisis - climate change - can be addressed locally by turning your food & yard waste into compost - and feeding compost to your soil to grow plants. The hobby of gardening is actually an effective way to sequester carbon - which helps to reduce global warming. This doesn't just apply to farmers in rural America - it applies to us here in the Bay Area as well. The soil in our yards and in our parks is what we will leave to future generations. Even though we've paved over most of the land here and for years sprayed toxic herbicides to try to achieve a socially acceptable, manicured aesthetic - distancing ourselves from soil and nature results in a ecosystem that is slowly dying. Isn't growing a better legacy?
To taste an heirloom tomato is to never want any other tomato again. The sweetness of freshly picked fruit. The smell & taste of fresh herbs. These should be available to everyone. Imagine the health consequences! Plant some basil this spring. If you've never tried just out-of-the-ground leeks - plant some, you won't be disappointed. A few radishes and some Little Gem lettuce make for a tasty salad.
If you do grow some food this spring, please consider planting a little extra to share with the Food Pharmacy.
Founder, GROW San Mateo