Funds Will Expand Community Gardens, Provide Fresh Produce for Food Pantries in Greater Philadelphia
EXTON, Pa. — Low-income residents of Chester, Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties can expect a greater supply of locally grown fresh vegetables this year. Thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, Triskeles, Inc. will more than double the number of community garden beds whose harvests are donated to local food pantries.
This month, Triskeles and several hundred volunteers will build 95 raised garden beds in the greater Philadelphia area. The new vegetable gardens, along with 70 beds built last year, are expected to yield upwards of 10,000 pounds of lettuce, tomatoes, squash and other vegetables.
“Too many people in our community are going hungry or are forced to rely on inexpensive, but non-nutritious food,” said Clemens Pietzner, executive director of Triskeles. “In Chester County alone, the demand for food assistance skyrocketed by 50 percent this year. Our community gardening program can help people have access to the fresh produce they need to eat a healthy diet. We are grateful for the Aetna Foundation’s support.”
Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of its regional grant making program, said, “We know that a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables can help ward off diabetes, heart disease and other chronic ailments. Yet, the people who are most at risk in our communities often have a hard time affording the kinds of foods that can benefit their health. Community gardens are a great way to make healthy food more accessible.”
To sustain the gardens, Triskeles partners with local community groups, schools, corporations and faith-based organizations. The groups help build the raised beds, which are often located on their property, and recruit volunteers to sow, water and harvest the vegetables throughout three growing seasons. Triskeles provides seeds, plants and the gardening know-how to grow bountiful harvests. The community partners commit to donating at least half of their crops to designated food pantries.
“The beauty of our program is that it is self-sustaining,” said Pietzner. “We provide the basic infrastructure and training to start the gardens, and our community partners take the ball and run with it. There really is no limit to how many people can get involved with growing their own healthy food and sharing it with their neighbors who are in need.”
Raised garden builds scheduled this month include:
- March 22, Drexel University’s Dornsife Center West, Philadelphia
- March 28, Chester County Department of Youth, West Chester
- March 30, Iglesia de Dios Manantiales de Vida Eterna, Phoenixville
About the Aetna FoundationThe Triskeles community garden initiative began in early 2012 with 70 raised garden beds and 10 community partners. In 2013, the nonprofit is building 95 additional garden beds with the help of 10 more partners. Organizations sponsoring the gardens include the Vanguard Group, Inc., QVC, Drexel University and the Phoenixville Area Senior Center. The gardens’ harvests will be donated to more than 10 food pantries, including Chester County Food Bank, Phoenixville Area Community Services and Project Outreach.
The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $413 million in grants and sponsorships, including $19.2 million in 2011. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.6 million hours since 2003. Aetna’s current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit www.AetnaFoundation.org.
About Triskeles, Inc.
Triskeles provides experiential programming, emphasizing personal contact with inspiring mentors/teachers while engaging participants in a variety of work readiness, sustainable, and healthy practices that prepare them for success in the future. Our mission is to work, through experiential education and support services, towards a future with others that ensures the long-term ability for all human beings to co-exist peacefully and with sufficient means while caring for the earth and its varied resources. For more information visit www.triskelesprograms.org.
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