US (PA): Green resource center built to battle food insecurity in Norristown

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) will establish a new Green Resource Center in Montgomery County’s Norristown Farm Park. The PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will include amenities and services to benefit the local community: a teaching farm, a greenhouse with appropriate heating and cooling systems powered in part by solar energy, shade area for seedlings, a wash station, a pavilion for public programming, pollinator gardens, community garden beds, and workforce development opportunities in conjunction with YWCA Tri-County Area. The PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will be operational in Spring 2021. 

With funding from the Montgomery County CARES Act Food Security Assistance and Workforce Development Program, the PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will support a county-wide effort to engage and support gardeners to grow more food for themselves and their neighbors, which has become critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will also provide support for job training in the field of horticulture.

Food insecurity
According to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” studies, 7 percent of Montgomery County residents are facing food insecurity with an estimated rise to 11.1 percent in 2020. Many food pantries have experienced a 50 percent increase in demand over the past few months, thereby heightening the need for broad collective action to support the health and well-being of local communities. The PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will offer education, material distribution, technical assistance, seedling propagation, and networking – supplying the necessary resources for gardeners to strengthen their neighborhoods by increasing access to fresh food and helping to cultivate strong social connections across barriers of age, language, and race.

“As a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19, it is estimated that over 100,000 Montgomery County residents are experiencing difficulty accessing nutritious food for themselves and their families,” said Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “That is why the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners approved $1 million in CARES Act funding for the County’s Food Security Assistance and Workforce Development Program. This new (PHS) program will increase food sovereignty for participants, their families, and their communities while also providing tools for job training and self-reliance for the future.”

Gardening training
PHS’s VP and Chief of Healthy Neighborhoods, Julianne Schrader Ortega, states, “The PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will provide the training, space, and resources for Montgomery County residents to learn about gardening and careers in the field of horticulture while also being a vital place to nurture social connections with others.”

The PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will also support YWCA Tri-County Area’s workforce development efforts, which expects to serve 200 people this year. Participants in YWCA’s Food for Success program will receive hands-on education and soft skills training in horticulture from PHS. Participants in YWCA’s culinary arts training program, Dignity Kitchen, will receive education and harvested produce.

“YWCA is committed to drive change, to listen, to support and most importantly, to act,” said Stacey Woodland, Executive Director of YWCA Tri-County Area.

For more information:
Pennsylvania Horticultural Society
100 N. 20th Street
5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103

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