OKLAHOMA CITY —
In these hot summer days many are avoiding the outdoors in favor of time inside near an air conditioner. But at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, 3355 S. Purdue Ave. in Oklahoma City, a group of volunteers brave the 100-plus degree temperatures to help provide food for the needy.
They are participating in the food bank’s Urban Harvest program. The aim of the program is to educate people on where their food comes from and how it’s grown, said Denise Hurbut, the food bank’s volunteer retention coordinator.
“In our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ day everyone grew at least some of the food that they were eating,” she said. “Very few people do that anymore. And if you talk to a lot of inner city kids, they have no concept of where their food even came from.”
People from all over come to plant, water and grow a natural and organic garden in southwest Oklahoma City, learn more about healthy living and also help fill food pantries at nonprofits and churches across Oklahoma.
This is not done in a greenhouse or with a potted plant on the front porch. Harvesters tend to a 2.5-acre teaching garden behind the food bank’s warehouse. It gives growers an almost farm-like atmosphere in which to grow tomatoes, basil, onions, garlic, strawberries, plums, peaches and an assortment of leafy greens.
As volunteers help this garden grow, they are helping some 90,000 hungry Oklahomans eat every week. Those most often helped are senior citizens, children, poverty-stricken families, homeless and those in dire need of sufficient nutrition.
Many groups come out and participate in the program. On this occasion, about 15 people from the Catholic HEART Workcamp, a Florida-based service group that sends people out across the country, tend the garden.
“I’m always looking for a chance to serve and to serve others,” said Kristie Ornellas, a volunteer. “We believe that being a Christian means being a Christian in action and serving others.”
But tending the garden is nothing new to Ornellas, 30, who grew up and lives in rural Illinois.
It is, however, a new experience to Arron Karweick, 15, from Kimberly, Wis., who said he wanted to get more involved in new experiences.
He said the program does close the gap to him over where his food comes from.
“It’s a little hard to think about it,” he said. “When you’re going to school and learning about all these other foods and about how they’re processed.”
Karweick said tending to this garden has been a lot of work for him. He added that he admires those who constantly work at the food bank.
“These people, I do not even know if the even get ‘thank yous’ for doing all this work,” he said.
Hurbut said the garden is basically kept up all year, though growth slows during the summer. She said volunteers are always needed.
MORE INFORMATION on the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma can be found online at regionalfoodbank.org or by calling 972-1111.