National Foodcycle Week Galvanizes Gardeners to Help Food Banks

By: National Foodcycle Week
TUCSON, Ariz. - Oct. 17, 2015 - PRLog -- National Foodcycle Week begins October 20th with a message to home gardeners. “Local food banks and shelters simply aren’t getting enough fresh produce,” says creator Mary Baker, a resident of Tucson, Arizona.  “They’re desperate for help.”

The program aims to educate home gardeners across America about the urgent need for fresh fruits and vegetables in food banks, soup kitchens and shelters. “Not every facility can accept or store fresh produce,” says Baker, “but those who can are desperate for it.”

Victor Hightower, the kitchen manager at Tucson’s Hospitality House (!hospitality-house-shelter/cwgu), said, “Our needs are urgent and year round. Fresh produce, in particular, is rare and hard to come by.”  The Hospitality House, run by the Salvation Army, is a 100-bed facility that serves over 50,000 meals a year.

Foodcycling, says Baker, is like freecycling. “It’s a way of sharing something that you don’t need, like an overabundance of zucchini, or deadfall apples, with those who do.” Baker’s website ( shares ideas for activities and events to promote awareness of the need. “It’s still a new idea,” she confesses, “but it’s had lots of interest.” Baker is planning a Spring Harvest Foodcycle Week for April 20th, and encourages anyone who would like to participate to contact her.

Baker points to the success of Victory Gardens during World War II.  According to the National WWII Museum (, in 1944 there were more than 20 million Victory Gardens across the U.S. and home gardens supplied over 40% of the fresh produce on American dinner tables. More than one million tons of vegetables were grown in Victory Gardens during the war. “The Facebook group called Tucson Backyard Gardeners has 8,000 members,” says Baker. “Can you imagine how much of an impact they could have if every individual delivered food even a few times a year?”

Baker is a self-confessed locavore and food fanatic.  But her inspiration, she says, comes from her family’s farm in Chehalis, Washington. “Our property has been a Christmas tree farm for 50 years,” she says. “But this fall, all the trees are coming down and barns are going up.” Baker’s brother Gary Cooke, who now owns and manages the 30 acre property, is converting the former tree farm to a non-profit which will raise pork and high-nutrient produce to supply the local food bank and homeless shelter.

“He has the support of the whole family,” said Baker. “And as far as we know, we’re only the second farm in the U.S. to be doing this. So it’s a huge challenge, but so inspirational.”  Cooke and his wife Penny volunteer at a local homeless shelter, often taking night and holiday shifts. Cooke noticed that the meals seldom featured fresh meat and produce, and resolved to come up with a solution. The couple work full time jobs outside the farm and so far, the Cookes are paying for everything out of their own salaries, but they hope to attract grant money and local support.

Baker will celebrate her 60th birthday on October 20th. “I wanted to do something special to celebrate this birthday,” she said. “So I came up with this idea.”

“It’s meaningful, and it’s a legacy that my children and grandchildren can be proud of. I hope America adopts it.”

Mary Baker
Solid Communications
Source:National Foodcycle Week
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Tags:Garden, Food, Shelter
Location:Tucson - Arizona - United States
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