USDA Workers Grow Gardens for Soup Kitchens and Food Pantries

Thursday, April 15, 2010
USDA People's Garden (photo: USDA)

Spearheaded by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been creating local gardens across the United States and the globe and donating the food to pantries and soup kitchens. The effort began last year when Vilsack began a People’s Garden outside the USDA headquarters in Washington by jackhammering a stretch of asphalt parking. Today, 80 employees at the DC office volunteer to tend the garden. At least 255 USDA gardens have been established so far, spanning from North Carolina to South Korea, and have produced nearly 30,000 pounds of produce for charitable causes. The name “People’s Garden” was inspired by the original name given to what is now the USDA by Abraham Lincoln when he created it in 1862: The People’s Department.

-Noel Brinkerhoff
Washington Post)
People’s Garden Initiative (U.S. Department of Agriculture)


Gary Oppenheimer 13 years ago
I read your story about food pantries and thought you might be interested in learning about a nationwide campaign that dovetails to it – possibly for a follow up story. While one in six people in America are food insecure, millions of backyard gardeners grow far more produce than they can possibly use. Since early May 2009, the campaign enabling America’s backyard gardeners find, and then share their garden bounty with local food pantries, has been rolling out nationwide. Nearly 1,700 food pantries/food banks nationwide have already registered with more signing up every day (see Its goal is to diminish hunger by educating, encouraging and enabling Americas 43 million home gardeners to donate the excess produce that otherwise would have been left to rot in the garden, to a local food pantry. The Campaign has received enthusiastic feedback - please visit to see what others have said about it. is an outgrowth of a 503(c)(1) sustainability organization and has received support from many groups including • USDA • Google Inc. • National Gardening Association • Rotary Int’l • VFW • Numerous faith groups • Garden Writers of America • Food/Hunger bloggers • Many food banks overseeing the pantries. ( is a first of its kind site... not just providing a list of area food pantries - it also offers driving instructions from the donors home to the pantry, allows the pantry to post a photograph of their building to make it easier to find and enables the food pantry to inform the public EXACTLY what store bought items they do or do not want (for donors who are not gardeners). See below for a more detailed listing of what makes different from other stories you may have recently done. A complete press kit is available at (including the press release on our recently released free iPhone app for Although the economy is bad, helps people give by enabling them to reach into their backyard instead of their back pocket. If you are interested in doing a story on the campaign, please feel free to contact me directly. Take Care, Gary Oppenheimer Founder 973-409-4093 also on Twitter & Facebook

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