Capitol Hunger Garden opens 8th season of growing

Capitol Hunger Garden opens 8th season of growing

Author: Jason Gottesman/Wednesday, May 10, 2017/Categories: News and Views

The most predominant visual reminder for lawmakers and staff of hunger issues facing Pennsylvanians, the Capitol Hunger Garden—located between the Capitol’s Ryan Office Building and the House side of the Main Capitol—was opened Wednesday morning with an initial planting conducted by legislative leaders and anti-hunger advocates.


The co-chairman of the legislative hunger caucus, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson) stated the garden is one of the most visible projects of the 83-member specialty caucus.


“Since 2010, when the Capitol Hunger Garden was first established, the garden has continuously fulfilled its mission of providing healthy food for those in need and providing a valuable tool to raise awareness of hunger in Pennsylvania,” he said.


“Unfortunately, hunger insecurity too often affects individuals in rural, urban, and suburban communities throughout our commonwealth. By working together in a bipartisan manner, we can raise awareness and continue to fight against hunger in Pennsylvania.”


Co-Chairman Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) explained hunger affects 1.75 million Pennsylvanians annually, with 500,000 of those being children.


“This hunger garden is a reminder: not only does it provide resources to try and help feed some of those 1.75 million individuals, but it is also a reminder for us here in the capitol that there are people in Pennsylvania that are in need of support and in need of a safety net,” he said. “My colleagues, all of us, recognize the need to do more.”


The garden is supported by hunger relief organizations across Pennsylvania.


Speaking on behalf of Feeding Pennsylvania was executive director Jane Clements-Smith.


“When we talk about hunger, we are mostly talking about working families who are sitting down and working out their budget and trying to decide whether they can afford food or pay their bills that month; we’re talking about a senior who is deciding whether they can afford the medications they need or the meal they need that afternoon; and I think the scariest face of hunger is the child sitting in the classroom who cannot concentrate, who cannot learn to his or her full potential, because their stomach is growling,” she said.


According to Clements-Smith, there are 57,000 farms in Pennsylvania, meaning there is an abundance of food for Pennsylvanians.


Benefitting from the hunger garden is food shelter Downtown Daily Bread in Harrisburg, which receives fresh vegetables from the garden to use during their daily hot lunch service.


Pastor Russell Sullivan of Pine Street Presbyterian Church, which sponsors Downtown Daily Bread, noted the garden is a symbol that legislative leader are committed to caring about the poor and the hungry.


Similarly, Eric Failing—the director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference’s Department of Social Concerns—noted there are more than 131 Catholic Charities operating more than 10.4 million food security services across the country while also delivering more than 3.2 million meals a year to hungry.


“Sadly, with all these efforts, all we can say is this is just a good start,” he said.


After Wednesday’s initial planting, the growth in the garden is managed by master gardeners from Penn State University.