As the Plant a Row, Watch COPE Grow Food Donation Garden prepares to start its third season to fight against hunger in Metropolis, COPE Food Pantry President Gene Tilker says with the food pantry is serving 250 to 350 clients each month, and the pantry is always in need of items.
“It [the community garden] has worked out rather well,” said Tilker, pointing out last year COPE received many fresh vegetables such as cucumbers, bell peppers, squash, carrots, as well as other produce and herbs.
The public is invited to join University of Illinois Extension (UIE) on Friday, March 20 at 9:30 a.m. to plant the garden located on West Eighth Street, with spring crops. Help is needed to prepare the raised beds and plant seeds. All community members are welcome to attend.
All produce grown in the Plant a Row, Watch COPE Grow garden is donated to COPE Food Pantry. “We strive to grow crops in spring, summer and fall. Carrots, green onions, spinach, lettuce and radishes are just some of the spring crops that will be planted. Once harvesting begins, families will receive the fresh produce grown in the garden at the pantry along with nutrition education from SNAP-education staff while there for food pick-up,” says Erin Garrett, extension educator, energy & environmental stewardship with UIE.
Community food pantries often have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables to provide to families. This garden is part of a collaboration between University of Illinois Extension’s Master Gardeners and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) to address food insecurity in Illinois.
UIE is also seeking volunteers to take care of the garden for a week this spring and summer. Anyone interested in volunteering may email firstname.lastname@example.org, if interested.
According to Tilker, there are also other people who have gardens who also bring in fresh produce to the pantry. Tilker said after the fresh produce is weighed, it is then made available for individuals coming in to receive food.
COPE received a truckload of supplies on Tuesday from Tri State, and Tilker says sometimes they do not always know what they will receive on the truck. Last month, COPE received fresh apples. COPE has also received oranges and potatoes and on occasion, they do get meat.
But meat is something the pantry often does not have. Tilker said last month COPE purchased chickens. During the month of December, COPE purchased turkeys and provided a holiday bag, which had turkey, dressing, vegetables and a dessert. In all, 400 holiday bags were distributed.
COPE is supported by food and monetary donations from churches, civic organizations and individuals.
COPE is located at 1013 North Ave. and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information about COPE, individuals may call 618-524-3635 or 270-933-8459.