By Molly McCarthy, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – According to the United Way of Tri-County's website,?more than 50 million Americans don’t have dependable, consistent resources of healthy and nutritious foods. The Plant-a-Row for Hungry Program at the United Way of Tri-County's Marlborough Community Cupboard is a unique program aimed at changing hunger statistics. The program is a people-helping-people initiative to provide hungry families with fresh, nutritious produce. Community members are encouraged to donate their surplus garden produce to help feed those in need.
Vanessa Bramberg, 27, of Marlborough has been supporting the Community Cupboard, located at 255 Main St., since June, with produce from her garden. A wholesale manager who works at Sullivan Tire, she said she was thrilled to find out she could help people in need by doing something she loves and does anyway.
“I garden any way that I can. I made a garden planter at work out of tires,” Bramberg said. “I love to garden, so when I told everybody about this they were really excited. I didn's know you could donate produce.”
She strongly believes the public needs to learn more about this way of donating. Bramberg credits her job with getting her thinking about community service and a way to give back. She described a program at Sullivan Tire aimed at molding future leaders.
“They really stress and push for us to do some kind of community service and that's why I started looking for something,” she said.
Bramberg helped her mother tend the garden each year while growing up. She remembers Friday night dinners when her mother would send her out to pick vegetables for the salad. Since buying her first home in Marlborough four years ago, she has been tending her own garden and picks vegetables from it each day. The fact that she can go out in her yard and pick a tomato, green pepper and cucumber for her salad at dinner is something she took for granted. Now, each Wednesday evening Bramberg brings her freshly grown vegetables to the Community Cupboard.
“I hear from the people who are volunteering that the people are so thankful to be able to come in and get these fresh vegetables that are homegrown right in their backyard in Marlborough,” she said.
Bramberg sees multiple positives coming from community members donating produce to local food pantries. Not only are people in need given healthy, nutrient rich vegetables but there is less waste involved.
“There is so much that goes to waste. I was so excited to know I am not going to be just putting more stuff in the compost. I know that people will be able to enjoy it and I can only eat so many cucumbers or tomatoes in a week before I make myself sick,” laughed Bramberg.
Another positive is the sense of pride tending a garden brings with it. “Just knowing that I grew this .being able to grow these and watch them grow and turn into vegetables is an accomplishment,” she explained.
The Plant-A-Row for Hungry program's success relies on community involvement. Home gardeners, schools, places of worship, youth and community organizations, farmers, orchards, and area businesses are encouraged to plant a row of seed and donate surplus to the Community Cupboard.