Produce gathered through the Grow A Row program ready to be distributed at Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services' Kitchen Cupboard. Produce can be dropped off at the Robert Frost Stone House Museum on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. for distribution to local food pantries. If you're interested in participating in this program, email frosthouse@bennington.edu.

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BENNINGTON — A local program is asking all gardeners to grow an extra row of produce in their garden to donate to the fight against hunger in the town of Bennington.

The initiative is Grow A Row, and Erin McKenny, director of the Robert Frost Stone House Museum and design and planning coordinator for Bennington College, oversees the program’s collection efforts.

The program began in the spring of 2020 after colleagues from the Center for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College discussed different ways to help community members affected by food insecurity.

“COVID had just started, and I think people were eager to find ways to help the community,” said McKenny.

About 10 percent of Vermonters and 14 percent of Vermonters under the age of 18 live in a food- insecure household, according to Vermont’s Department of Health and Hunger Free Vermont. They do not have consistent and regular access to nutritious foods. People who are suffering with food insecurity are more likely to experience obesity, mental health issues and chronic diseases like diabetes.

Soon after development of the program, it was given a grant from the Mellon Foundation. The grant was a portion of the $1 million grant awarded to Bennington College that was intended to help develop a Good Studies program at the college and also address food insecurity in the town.

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The program asked for donations through webinars hosted by CAPA and the Robert Frost Stone House Museum, through posters and online. So far, McKenny said about 12 to 15 gardeners have participated in the program.

About 30 different types of vegetables, fruit and herbs have been donated to two local food pantries — The Kitchen Cupboard at Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services, and HIS Pantry at Sacred Heart-Saint Francis de Sales Catholic Church.

“We have also donated in the past to Shires Housing, and a wonderful program in Manchester called Grateful Hearts,” said McKenny.

Kale, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and garlic are just some examples of the abundance that has been donated. The program sees an uptick in donations during August and September, as gardens start yielding more produce, but it’s important for the program to receive donations all summer long.

“We’d love to increase our donations in the beginning of the summer,” said McKenny. “But really all of the donations are wonderful, no matter what time of year.”

Donations of produce can be dropped off on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Robert Frost Stone House Museum. The drop-off area is located at the small, red, screened-in barn on the Stone House grounds. Anyone interested in participating in Grow A Row can email frosthouse@bennington.edu or call 802-440-4882.


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