Volunteers Make a Difference for 100+ Local Families

by MARK TAYLOR, Special to the Peninsula Pulse

The shocks of inflation, high gas prices and broken supply chains reverberate right into family kitchens – including some that are also feeling the end of the brief Child Tax Benefit. 

Add these up, and it’s easy to see why not all of America’s children are getting enough to eat, and why 45% of U.S. families are now dependent on food banks for some level of assistance, according to a CNBC survey about the growing food crisis. Although there is little that can be done at the local level to address knots in the international supply chain, there is room for local assistance for struggling families. 

Last week, United Way of Door County’s Healthy Door County program coordinated volunteer labor and donations from the Door County Seed Library, the local Master Gardener programs and individual gardeners to provide 106 home-gardening starter kits to families in the Door County Women, Infants and Children program; other families United Way identified as facing hardship; and general community members.

The kits included two grow bags, a tomato cage, two plant-support spikes, a pair of gardening hand tools, a variety of seeds, several seedlings and a bag of potting soil from Ace Hardware. The kits were distributed in the parking lot at Bellin Health.

Shauna Blackledge, United Way’s community impact coordinator for its Healthy Door County program, said inspiration for the kits came from a program in Wyoming.

“We recognize the struggles families are up against with inflation, especially with rising grocery bills,” Blackledge said. “Our goal is to encourage healthy lifestyles in Door County, so getting families growing and eating more produce was a perfect project to take on toward that goal. Plus, we know gardening is great for mental health, too.”

United Way provided about $2,000 for the family-support effort, Blackledge said.

Every spring the Door County Seed Library provides free vegetable and flower seeds through the eight county libraries, and donated packets of vegetable seeds were included in the starter kits.

“This project is in perfect alignment with our goal of encouraging Door County residents to get their hands in the dirt, digging and growing food for their families,” said Seed Library volunteer coordinator Penne Wilson. “There are so many benefits to gardening. It not only helps families produce healthy food to put on their tables, but it’s a great bonding activity when parents garden with their children.”

Sturgeon Bay resident Mallory Short, who received one of the kits, echoed that sentiment.

“I am thankful for United Way providing garden kits to help set up our garden at our new house,” Short said. “It gives me the starting tools to help teach my daughter how to grow food and be sustainable in an unknown climate.”

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