The Hattie Carthan Community Garden occupies about a third of a city block in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but its reach extends far beyond those borders. Covered with plots of tomatoes, cabbages, cucumbers and lettuce, the garden is part of a community-wide effort to feed the hungry with fresh, locally grown food.
Named after a local activist, the garden is the newest member of Harvest for Neighborhoods, a campaign centered in Bed-Stuy but with citywide aspirations. Led by Green Guerillas, a local nonprofit, the program is helping 11 community gardens in the neighborhood grow food more efficiently and distribute their fresh fruits and vegetables to free food suppliers like soup kitchens.
According to the NYC Coalition Against Hunger, which tracks hunger statistics, the city’s food pantries and soup kitchens fed 45 percent more people in 2002 than in 2000, and had to turn away nearly 350,000 hungry New Yorkers last year. With 95 percent of Brooklyn’s food assistance programs reporting increased demand, low-income neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy have become particularly vulnerable.
Recognizing this problem, Harvest for Neighborhoods helps organize the informal practice of food donation by connecting gardeners directly with neighborhood providers. According to Rebecca Ferguson, associate director of the Green Guerillas, volunteers from the community will donate “whatever people can spare, whatever they want to give.”
Over the summer, Green Guerillas teamed up with three other groups — Just Food, the Coalition Against Hunger, and the Bedford-Stuyvesant Garden Coalition — to help the participating gardens clean up, plant new crops and begin composting. They have run workshops on how to grow more food and extend the harvest by planting twice each season.
While many of the details of the program are still being finalized, Ferguson said several organizations that feed the hungry have expressed interest in sharing the gardens’ bounty. Some gardens, she said, plan to donate as much as 90 percent of what they grow.