High quality fresh produce is something that is, in general, sorely lacking in the emergency food system. For this reason, there is a growing movement of food pantries, soup kitchens and other congregate meals programs taking matters into their own hands and starting gardens in order to grow some of their own produce.
Why start a garden?
  • Have more fresh produce to distribute or cook for your clients.
  • Your clients deserve the best: Give your clients top quality fresh produce that is as local as it can get.
  • Create a Community Space: Gardens can transform your food pantry by creating a space for people of all ages and backgrounds to stay and interact.
  • Empower your clients: By involving clients in the efforts to grow food, gardens can transform clients from just being receivers to also being providers of help. Garden can also provide a space for job training and horticultural therapy.
  • Educate: Gardens provide a place for community members to learn where our food comes from and to develop the skills to grow it themselves.
What are some of the food pantries, soup kitchens and congregate meals programs in New York City that have started gardens?
What resources are available to food pantries, soup kitchens and other congregate meals programs that would like to start a garden?
  • Just Food’s Urban Agriculture Program: Just Food’s Urban Agriculture program is a resource and network for community gardens and urban farms in New York City. One valuable resource for EFPs starting gardens is the City Farms workshop series, that provides information on a wide array of topics related to urban agriculture from seed starting to canning your harvest. A schedule of workshops can be found here.
  • The Horticultural Society of New York (HSNY): Several of the emergency food programs listed above have hired HSNY as a consultant for learning how to start and maintain a garden at their site.  In addition to designing and creating gardens, HSNY offers a wide range of resources for reasonable membership and program fees, including a 10,000 volume horticulttural resource library, workshops and programs on greening, farming and gardening, children's education programs, green vocational training and the "green screen" film series.
  • United Way SEED Grants: United Way of New York City's Hunger Provention and Nutrition Assistance Program provides SEED Grants to support new or enhanced services in a community organization in order for that organization to provide innovative and self-sustaining ways of confronting community needs, enabling individuals to decrease their reliance on emergency food and increase promotion of nutrition and physical activity among various age groups. In 2010, Seed Grants funding was provided specifically to create an urban farm, or to expand an existing urban farm through new programming on nutrition and health. Applications are avaiable and accepted in the fall, and can be found at
  • The best resource for starting a garden for your EFP is to talk to the people who have done it! Contact Sonya Kharas (, 212-645-9880 x.227) to learn about the ways other organizations have gotten started, their successes and challenges.