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Atlanta, GA: Students cut red tape for Emory's garden

  • Subject: [cg] Atlanta, GA: Students cut red tape for Emory's garden
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2004 22:58:44 EDT

Students Cut Red Tape for Emory's Garden

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/08/04

Gardeners across the South will head to the nursery today in a Good Friday ritual that says spring officially is here.

Hopeful that the threat of one last frost has passed, they'll sow tiny seeds and set out tender annuals. Some generous souls, like Emory University students Lexi Gross and Emily Cantrell, will even plant enough vegetables to share with those less fortunate.

"I don't know anything about gardening, so I'm just learning," says Gross, a political science major from New York.

Yet that didn't stop her and other volunteers from battling university bureaucracy and historic preservationists last fall to establish a campus community garden dedicated to Plant a Row for the Hungry.

Since 1995, the food drive, sponsored by the national Garden Writers Association, has generated nearly 7 million pounds of fresh produce for charities. Nearly 28,000 pounds of that has been grown and donated by Georgia gardeners for a local campaign, co-sponsored the past two years by the Atlanta Community Food Bank and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This year's goal is 18,000 pounds, which will be distributed to more than 750 nonprofit organizations served by the food bank in 38 metro and North Georgia counties.

"The need and demand continues to be strong," says Bill Bolling, the food bank's executive director. "Although there are reports of economic recovery, there have been practically no new jobs in the Atlanta region. We are still experiencing strong demand for those who are unemployed and under-employed."

In fact, Labor Department figures show that metro Atlanta lost 16,800 jobs last year.

One key to Plant a Row for the Hungry's success is its simplicity, he says; gardeners simply take their excess vegetables to one of about two dozen drop-off sites established throughout the area.

For Gross and Cantrell, both 21, that was the easy part, donating the collards they grew last fall to a children's home. Getting permission to use land on Emory's Clairmont campus was another story.

Gross wanted to launch a volunteer project, and after learning about the food bank's community garden program, decided to apply for a grant from Volunteer Emory to establish a small plot on campus.

"I thought it sounded like an awesome idea because I'd volunteered with the food bank before and knew they support healthier diets through community gardening," says Cantrell, director of Volunteer Emory and an English major from Houston. "I told her I'd like to help her out with it."

Gross would need all the help she could get because she had to wade through a barrage of red tape, including approval from both building and environmental officials to site the garden on the grounds of a new campus residential community. Then, the students had to get permission from the DeKalb Historical Society because the land is part of a parcel protected to preserve an adjacent family cemetery.

Aided by about 40 volunteers, the students launched the garden in September, using the grant money to purchase tools and materials. And though their initial harvest was modest, they laid the foundation for a spring garden they plan to plant next week with tomatoes and peppers.

The students' initiative and determination are qualities that Bolling often sees emerge as volunteers get involved with Plant a Row for the Hungry. Many go on to help with other food bank programs, he says.

"Atlantans clearly are generous people," he says. "Whether it's home-grown produce, volunteer time or financial gifts, people respond when they perceive there is a legitimate need."

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