Gardens Help to Alleviate Hunger - SHIM

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Gardens Help to Alleviate Hunger

Gilfillan Garden 2023Rachel White, Development and Communications Manager

We’re enjoying an excellent harvest season in our community gardens, and at the same time we are observing Hunger Action Month, which focuses on food insecurity. The juxtaposition of bountiful baskets of food and long lines of people attending our food pantries gave me pause.

How is it that a country so full of resources, not to mention so much food waste, has so many hungry people?

Our food pantries benefited 6,205 people last year. Men, women, children, veterans, seniors, immigrants and refugees—no one is immune to hunger. More than half of households relying on our food pantries are employed, and many have more than one job. Unfortunately, their wages aren’t high enough to keep up with the cost of living.

While some of the people who come to pantries are experiencing a crisis, such as a job loss or an unexpected medical bill, we’re seeing more people just struggling to keep up with monthly bills like rent and utilities. While inflation is slowly dropping, food prices have remained high. Hopefully, inflation’s steady decline will help ease the burden on low-income households, but changes to eligibility for programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have hit local families hard.

How do we make things better?

Luckily, we have amazing neighbors here in the South Hills who help to provide 700,000 pounds of food to people facing food insecurity. Through generous donations of food, personal care items, and monetary donations, we keep our shelves stocked. With a focus on nutritious offerings, our Community Garden program plays an essential role in providing healthy produce at a low cost.

What is the Community Garden program?Gillfillan Farm 2023 harvesting

Twelve years ago, our first garden was established outside our Bethel Park facility by our amazing garden coordinator Becky. As the need continued to grow, Becky contacted local congregations to add community gardens to our network. The program BLOSSOMED (perfect garden pun, right?), and we now have 11 partners growing food for our pantries along with our two SHIM gardens. These gardens grow more than 15,000 pounds each season!

What is unique about our gardens?

One of the best things about the garden program is its ability to adapt to the preferences of the people we serve. About half of the people who utilize our pantries are refugees and immigrants. They like different foods than Americans, and those foods can sometimes be hard to find. Our dedicated gardeners consult with pantry clients and include their most desired items in their planting. They grow long beans, bitter gourds, and hot peppers- things that you would never find at Giant Eagle!

Who does this work?

The most inspiring thing about our community gardens program is the volunteers. With only one part-time garden coordinator managing 2 SHIM gardens and overseeing 11 partner gardens, we rely on a team of dedicated volunteers. From planting to weeding, watering to harvesting, volunteers take on the many duties required to keep plants producing all season. On hot, humid summer days or on cold rainy fall days, our volunteers are committed to growing as much food as possible for hungry neighbors. They take on dirty jobs with smiles on their faces because they know the impact of this important work.SHIM Garden volunteers

What can you do?

If you want to get involved, there are a number of ways to help! You can go to to read a list of options, including hosting a food drive, giving a gift of stock, donating a vehicle, or making a financial donation. If you’re interested in gardening, find out if your local congregation has a SHIM garden that you can volunteer in. If not, maybe you can help establish our next community garden! If you have questions about the program, reach out to Becky at

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