Champaign County Master Gardeners maintain three donation gardens. All produce is donated to local non-profit organizations.
The gardens at the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center provides didactic and hands-on interactive lessons on gardening, healthy eating, horticulture, related career ideas, nature, and environmental stewardship. The produce planted and harvested by the youth was donated to the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen throughout the season, delivering 33 bags of produce this year. Youth working in the garden learn the benefits and importance of growing your own produce. Helping with harvests that are donated to the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen also explores important themes about community service.
The vegetable donation garden, also known as Farmer MacGregor’s Garden, at Crisis Nursery served an average of 17 children per month by supplementing the children’s lunches. It also provided fresh produce for an average of 29 families each month. In total, this program served a total of 75 children and 130 families through the donation garden this past year. The Crisis Nursery’s mission “creates an ‘Island of Safety’ dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect by providing 24-hour emergency care for children and support to strengthen families in crisis.”
Produce from the vegetable garden at the Idea Garden was donated to The Courage Connection. According to their website, the “Courage Connection provides a continuum of services so that individuals and families facing domestic violence can achieve safety, support and success.” This garden provided produce to an estimated 18 people each week totaling an estimated 378 people this year.
Donation gardens are playing an increasingly important role in addressing food access and food insecurity in Champaign county and across the state. The Illinois Extension Master Gardener program strives to assist in addressing these challenges for Illinois families.