Reprinted with permission from the Shawano Leader
The FRESH Project’s goal is to educate people to eat healthy, and many people in Shawano County are working to get healthy food to everyone through “Share the Bounty” tables.
“We ask all gardeners to plant an extra row and donate it, along with extra produce,” said Barbara Mendoza, executive director.
Gardeners put their extra produce on “Share the Bounty” tables for anyone in need to take what they need. The program is being supported by a grant of $263,283 over three years from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership and a $2,500 grant from the Mielke Family Foundation. The Basic Needs Giving Partnership is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc., and other community partners.
There are six FRESH gardens this year. One on the Ho-Chunk reservation near Wittenberg is working with the native community and the youth. The produce goes back to the community.
The elderly, with help from the project volunteers, take care of the garden at the Ella Besaw Center near Bowler on the Stockbridge-Munsee reservation, and the produce goes back to the center.
Nancy Schultz takes care of two plots at the Community Gardens of Green near Zion Lutheran Church in Shawano. Other gardeners there are encouraged to give their extra produce to Share the Bounty.
Kim Ihrcke educates children about eating their vegetables and encourages them to try new foods from the Church on the Hill Garden in Shawano. She had the second grade from Hillcrest Primary School come over during a class at summer school.
“This is really a success story,” Mendoza said. “Kim has worked really hard with the kids.” “I’m a low-key teacher,” Ihrcke said. “They love to water, but they will weed. It’s the favorite part of my summer.”
The produce at these tables is available to everyone. “It’s valuing all people to be healthy and part of the community,” Ihrcke said.
The FRESH Project has three goals: to start a farmers’ co-op of local producers, have a winter farmers’ market and next year have a mobile food pantry.
Both Mendoza and Ihrcke will be happy to speak to groups about how they can help. They are hosting a cookout and community dinner July 24 at First Presbyterian Church.
To volunteer or for more information, call 715-526-5206.