Photo by Melody

PAR: A Program to Defeat Hunger

By Paul Rodman (paulgrowMay 11, 2011

Hunger is a global problem, but hunger in our own neighborhoods is something we should be able to solve if we act together. PAR/ Plant a Row for the Hungry is a program that was started by the Garden Writers of America back in 1995. Since its inception American gardeners have donated over 14 million pounds of vegetables and herbs to feed the hungry in our local areas.

Gardening picture 

Thirty-three million people including 13 million children live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents one in ten households in the United States.1

4.1 percent of U.S. households experience hunger: they frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. Nearly 8.5 million people, including 2.9 million children, live in these homes. 1

11.1 percent of U.S. households are at risk of hunger: they have lower quality diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they cannot always afford the food they need. 24.7 million people, including 9.9 million children, live in these homes.1

Millions of poor children suffer from chronic under-nutrition, the under-consumption of essential nutrients and food energy. The risk of nutrient deficiencies that can lead to serious health problems, including impaired cognitive development, growth failure, physical weakness, anemia and stunting.

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It's easy to start a program in your area by following theses easy steps suggested by GWA.

STEP 1: Enlist A Network
The first step is to recruit volunteer participants.

  • Local Coordinator
  • Food distribution agency partner
  • Publicist
  • Events Organizer
  • Collections Organizer

STEP 2: Plan Your Campaign
PAR provides campaign how-to information based on feedback from successful field networks, along with communications supplies for:

  • Getting Started
  • A Typical Campaign
  • Planting Season Launch
  • Harvest Season Collections

STEP 3: Publicize Your Campaign
Publicity is the key to success; so, the first move is to publicize everything you do.

STEP 4: Celebrate The Harvest
Starting at midseason, enlist the media in building to the harvest party and cut-off date for recording donations. As the garden season peaks, the weekly totals will climb dramatically; so, don't give up on reporting the totals. It takes a newspaper, radio or TV host very little space to report climbing totals. Then, wrap up the campaign at the cut-off date with a harvest party.

I personally have been involved with PAR for 5 years.  I started out by donating extra vegetables from my personal garden. I was so touched by what I saw when I delivered the produce I wanted to do more. In the spring I posted a notice in my church's bulletin asking folks to plant a little extra. When harvesting began they drop it off at our church office. I collect it 3 times a week and deliver it to soup kitchens and food depots in the area. I emphasize that no amount is too small, a lot of small donations add up to large amounts.

I can't begin to tell you how many hugs and handshakes I've received from folks waiting in line thanking me for helping them out. Remember many families are just one paycheck away from losing their home or having to ask for food.



To get involved contact or call toll-free 877.492.2727


Hunger statics, photo & logos courtesy of GWA

  About Paul Rodman  
Paul RodmanPaul Rodman has been gardening for over 45 years. He is an Advanced Master Gardener, and American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian. He is President Emertius of the Western Wayne County Master Gardener Association in Wayne County, Michigan. He currently serves as the greenhouse chairman of this group. Rodman has amassed over 5500 volunteer hours in the Master Gardener program. Rodman is the garden columnist for The News Herald newspaper, in Southgate, Michigan. He has also written for the Organic web site. He is a certified Master Canner and has taught classes on Home Food Preserving for 7 years. He has lectured on various gardening topics throughout southeastern Michigan. His favorite pastime is teaching children about gardening. For the past several years he has conducted classes for second grade students teaching them about subjects ranging from vermi-composting to propagation.

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