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GIFT Gardens sprouting up across Alachua County to feed hungry


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The courtyard at the Gainesville Salvation Army was covered with trash, and that bothered Corps Officer Karen Lewis.

“That area was just covered up in junk,” Lewis said. “I thought, ‘What can we do with this area to make it more attractive?'”

Florida Organic Growers turned the courtyard into a vegetable garden.

The Gainesville Initiative for Tasty Gardens, or GIFT Gardens, are sprouting up all over Alachua County. Florida Organic Growers builds them for low-income families and the institutions that support them.

“It’s a place for people to engage in their environment … and provide fresh, nutritious produce for people,” Community Food Program Coordinator Travis Mitchell said.

Florida Organic Growers has already planted 90 GIFT Gardens. The one at the Salvation Army is the latest to crop up, and while it is only a 14-foot-by-6-foot plot, the organizations hope it will fight a larger issue in the county: hunger.

GIFT Gardens’ monthly harvests include about $50 of produce. It might not seem like a substantial amount, but considering that the Salvation Army fed over 33,000 hot meals last year, it goes a long way.

“Supplementing those meals with fresh food options is usually difficult,” Corps Officer Preston Lewis said.

The GIFT Gardens will also be used to teach children from low-income families to use fresh veggies in their everyday diets.

George Pappas edited this story online.

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