A grassroots network of food pantries and small-scale vegetable gardeners sharing produce with neighbors in need.
Durham’s Plant-a-Row network began in 2015 with the establishment of Durham Farm and Food Network (DFFN): a collection of local farmers, Bull City Cool, and End Hunger Durham (EHD). In 2016, EHD contacted Durham’s 60+ food pantry operators to compile a database of their information and to learn more about their diverse capacity and needs. High on the list was fresh, locally produced produce that met both the nutritional needs and the cultural preferences of their clients.
To meet this need, DFFN formed a network of folks interested in the “plant a row for the hungry” model that has been implemented in many other cities nationwide. DFFN decided that the best way to get the local vegetables to neighbors in need was for the gardener to deliver their freshly harvested produce directly to a nearby food pantry – or for the pantry operator to pick it up from the gardener. This way, the vegetables that were harvested in the morning would be available in the pantry that very afternoon, at the peak of freshness! Through this direct relationship of gardeners and food pantry operators working together, more and more people in Durham have access to beautiful, locally grown produce.
The Durham Plant-a-Row match-making process between local gardeners and pantry operators began in the spring of 2017 with a potluck at the Durham County Cooperative Extension office. Excitement grew as folks shared their stories and formed relationships. In the 3 years since, thousands of pounds of fresh produce from Durham soil has been shared with the community. Today, Durham Plant-a-Row remains a strong grassroots network of direct relationships between gardeners and pantry operators. We maintain maps of the locations of all participating gardens and food pantries, as well as a members-only database of contact information to help match gardeners and pantries.
“One thing that I would speak to you about Plant a Row is that it really is a network and much more than just a list of pantries and growers because those relationships are really valuable for helping to amplify all the work that we’re doing and make these connections and continue to grow the impact in some different unexpected ways. That wouldn’t be possible if we’re all just dropping off at one central location. So I think that’s been something that has really stood out to me about this network.”
— Kay Coleman, IFFS