The United Way is working to get more urban farms up and running in the fight against hunger in the city. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.
Volunteers were busy Wednesday filling up raised planting beds with trucked-in soil at St. Mary's Episcopal Church on Harlem's West 126th Street.
"We've got a lot of good volunteers for the food pantry, but now we wanted people from the congregation, from the community, to really be able to put their energy into the food production, and make it a little more sustainable," said Reverend Earl Kooperkampf of St. Mary's Episcopal Church.
The plan is to grow 600 pounds of food this year, including carrots, lettuce, potatoes and beans to be distributed through the church's food pantry. It's being done with the help of a $20,000 grant from the United Way of New York City's Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program, which help community-based groups develop urban farms.
"Fresh produce is often times the hardest items for people to get their hands on: It's expensive, it's hard for people to afford, and it's often unavailable in many neighborhoods here in New York City," said HPNAP Assistant Director Stacey McCarthy.
Since 2002, United Way has funded 23 urban farms around the city, including an indoor hydroponic farm at the Childhood Development Support Corporation in Brooklyn where crops grow in liquid nutrients rather than soil.
"At first, we didn’t know what to expect and now we know it's not a lot of work and now we have community volunteers that come in and help us," said Farm Coordinator Mireille Massac.
Back at St. Mary's in Harlem, volunteers were hoping to plant outside at the end of April with help from the Horticultural Society of New York.
"You should look at every single plant every day and see what's going on with that plant. If you establish a good relationship with your garden then your garden will always, the plants respond," said John Cannizzo of the Horticultural Society of New York.
"It's also an opportunity for children to learn about food and food production so that we create a systemic approach to changing the way in which New York eats," said St. Mary's Garden Group Chairperson Stephen Thake.
The church is also working on a project to naturally heal the soil located beneath the beds, which was contaminated over the years by manufacturing in the area.
For more information about the program or to volunteer, visit unitedwaynyc.org.