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New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill donates produce to South Worcester Neighborhood Center to fight food insecurity

  • September 30, 2022

The New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill is helping address food insecurity by growing fresh, nutritious produce.

The garden partners with South Worcester Neighborhood Center to donate fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs each week. Last month, the garden reached 400 pounds of produce harvested and donated this season, and in 2021 they were able to donate more than 1,000 pounds.

“There’s a concept in larger cities and towns where they’re food deserts. Fresh produce is hard to come by,” said Dawn Davies, formal gardens manager. “When you have a food pantry, what’s donated is hard goods and dry goods like peanut butter or bread, but you don’t have that fresh produce which is really important for a healthy diet.”

Davies explained that New England Botanic Garden has been donating produce from its vegetable garden for over two decades, but started specifically focusing on the local community in recent years.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, they would donate to Rachel’s Table in Worcester, which would distribute the produce using their own volunteer drivers. However, during the pandemic, it became more difficult as there were fewer volunteers to pick up donations from the garden, so they began taking matters into their own hands and bringing it to SWNC themselves.

“This way, we can harvest same-day and, within hours of picking, bring it to the donation site,” she said. “We can donate lettuce, Swiss chard and kale that would wilt. In previous years, we would just have to compost stuff like that.”

In recent weeks, the garden has been able to donate figs, blueberries, raspberries and sweet Spanish onions.

“I was able to drop them off myself, and it was great to have that one-on-one talk with people there about the back history of the produce,” Davies said.

This year, the produce

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