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PHS Fights Food Insecurity with New ‘Harvest 2020’ Initiative: Here’s How You Can Help

Garden for the greater good, and help combat hunger in Philly.

One of the many tragedies of the COVID-19 crisis has been the economic toll it has taken on the country, deepening the inequality and need that already exists in our communities. Philadelphia currently ranks in the top 10 U.S. cities with food insecure residents. Almost 12 percent of households in the Greater Philadelphia region are food insecure, with that number expected to double as a result of COVID-19. Additionally, many food pantries have experienced a 50 percent increase in demand over the last few weeks.


“So many people who are dealing with pandemic-related job loss and food insecurity, these are already our most vulnerable neighbors,” PHS’s Chief of Healthy Neighborhoods, Julianne Schrader Ortega tells us.


To help combat this growing issue, Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has launched Harvest 2020, a multi-faceted initiative that will mobilize the community at every level, from home gardeners to local hunger relief organizations. Through this initiative, PHS hopes to encourage 100,000 gardening enthusiasts and other individuals in the greater Philadelphia region to help make a difference by growing food for themselves and their communities. And everyone can help, regardless of gardening experience.


Ortega explains, “PHS already works with gardeners, volunteers, and partner organizations to advance the health and well-being of our region, and their collective support is needed now more than ever. Harvest 2020 can play a vital role in our neighbors’ lives this growing season.” Each year PHS and their 128 community garden partners (in more than 250 neighborhoods) grow fresh food for pantries and neighbors all over the greater Philadelphia region. Harvest 2020 will encourage these partners to plant extra crops to share—with a goal of 5 million pounds of fresh produce.



Harvest 2020 has been designed for anyone to participate, whether you’ve never gardened before and are looking to grow healthy food for your family, or if you’re a seasoned green thumb who can grow enough to share and help support food banks that serve those most in need.


It’s also the perfect way to introduce kids to gardening, as well as altruism. “It’s a great activity for kids and parents to do together, so we’re trying to support families learning to garden,” says Ortega, who is also helping her own children through quarantine. Another benefit of gardening with kids? “If you get them involved in growing it, they are a little more brave to try new and healthy foods.”


Here’s how you can help:

Set Your Intention

Visit PHSonline.org/harvest2020 to pledge as a grower, sharer, or donor. As a grower, you commit to growing food for your family. As a sharer, you grow food and share your harvest with your community. A donor supports Harvest 2020 efforts through a monetary donation, and those funds go to gardening education, gardening resources, and more. PHS is partnering with the Cooperative Gardens Commission (CGC) to help connect first-time growers with the community resources they need — including seeds, land access, and knowledge — to get started producing food for themselves and their communities. They are also helping community gardens scale up their production.

 Grow Your Garden

Whether you’re growing for your family, your community, or both, it all starts by planting the seeds. Visit “Plant your Garden” on the PHS website for suggested shopping lists and local retailers—many are offering home delivery services, no-contact pick-up, and the ability to place orders online.


If you need help, visit the PHS website’s “Learn to Grow” section, which includes how-to guides, videos, virtual gardening workshops, and more.



Share Your Harvest

You can give directly to your neighbors, or use the online map to locate a food pantry in the area for a drop-off of your donations. PHS has partnered with hunger relief organizations such as AmpleHarvest.org, the Chester County Food Bank, Food Connect, Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, SHARE, and Philabundance to aid in the success of Harvest 2020.


If you plan to donate to a food pantry, first check that your produce meets donation guidelines. Produce must be fresh (harvested immediately before donating), whole, raw, clean, and packaged in a clean bag or box. Next, locate your pantry and schedule a drop-off; or use Food Connect, who will safely and conveniently transport your food to a donation site.


Finally, be sure to log your donation so PHS can track your harvest!


“With more than 40 years of experience in providing resources and education to gardeners and local communities, PHS is well-suited to lead this initiative,” said Matt Rader, PHS President. “PHS believes everyone can make a difference – regardless of gardening experience – and we’re here to get thousands of people working to help combat food insecurity this year.


For more information on Harvest 2020, or to pledge as a grower, sharer, or donor, visit PHSonline.org/harvest2020 or email harvest@pennhort.org with questions. Updates on the initiative can also be found via PHS’s social media using #PHSHarvest2020.


Photographs courtesy of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.

Contributing Writer