Each year during the growing season, MetroParks gleans produce grown in its gardens at Cox ArboretumWegerzyn GardensCarriage Hill and Possum Creek MetroPark to donate to local organizations. This summer, Five Rivers MetroParks partnered with local non-profit, Access to Excess, to provide fresh, local produce to those who struggle with hunger in our community. This year, MetroParks is asking for the community’s help to provide produce to those who need it most.

Before COVID-19 impacted the Dayton region, it was already challenged with a 16.9% food insecurity rate – more than 5% higher than the national average, according to Feeding America. A recent Census Household Pulse Survey indicates that food insecurity rates have nearly doubled in Ohio due to the pandemic.

Because of the considerable need for fresh, nutritious food, MetroParks has an ambitious goal to double the amount of food typically donated to local organizations during the growing season. In 2019, MetroParks donated more than 1,760 pounds of produce from the Demonstration Garden at Possum Creek, alone. Typically, annual donations top more than 1 ton of produce.

Gardeners can help MetroParks reach it’s goal of donating 2 tons of food by dropping off extra produce from their gardens at either Possum Creek or Wegerzyn MetroParks on the upcoming dates:

Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark parking lot, from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

  • Tuesday, Sept. 1
  • Tuesday, Sept. 8
  • Tuesday, Sept. 15
  • Tuesday, Sept. 22
  • Tuesday, Sept 29

Possum Creek MetroPark farm house, from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

  • Friday, Aug. 28
  • Wednesday, Sept. 2
  • Friday, Sept. 4
  • Wednesday, Sept. 9
  • Friday, Sept. 11
  • Wednesday, Sept. 16
  • Friday, Sept. 18
  • Wednesday, Sept. 23
  • Friday, Sept. 25
  • Wednesday, Sept. 30

Please noteFor the safety of MetroParks staff and other parkgoers, people with donations should wear a face covering during drop off and observe social distancing guidelines.

Produce will be collected by Access to Excess  and distributed to those who struggle with hunger during these challenging times.

“Really, no donation is too small, and we are accepting all kinds of produce,” said MetroParks community gardening coordinator, Kaitlyn Lowry.

For those who wish to grow their own produce at home, MetroParks is offering free second season gardening kits thanks to a generous grant from Whole Foods. Kits will be distributed at the Foodbank drive thru Aug 25 and Aug. 26, from 1 to 3 p.m. Three hundred kits will be give away on a first come, first serve basis. Gardening kits are filled with seeds that will grow well in late-summer into fall. All the information needed to plant and care for fall veggies will be in the gardening kits as well.

Fresh produce is a running theme through MetroParks, as locally grown produce is often more nutritious and less taxing on the environment. MetroParks is often working with local organizations to develop unique ways to promote healthy eating, supporting local farmers and community gardening. As such, MetroParks staff are acutely aware are Dayton’s hunger-related issues.

Going beyond the garden, MetroParks offers benefit programs at the 2nd Street Market that ensure equitable access to the fresh produce offered by local growers.

“We’re so proud to be located downtown, but that also gives us a lot of responsibility,” said 2nd Street Market manager Lynda Suda. “We are one of the only locations where people can shop for fresh food in the downtown area. Additionally, there are food deserts just a short distance away, so we have to take food equity and accessibility very, very seriously.”

With a goal to make the Market a more inclusive shopping space, MetroParks developed a partnership with local non-profit, Homefull, to start programs that provide better access to fresh food.

Homefull clients are paid to vend the produce grown on their urban farms at the 2nd Street Market. These client-employees also run the EBT/SNAP exchange, where people who use these benefits can receive tokens to use at the Market in lieu of cash or cards.

In addition to offering EBT/SNAP, the Market also offers Produce Perks, a matching program that encourages shoppers to purchase more fresh produce. Those who use EBT/SNAP benefits receive a dollar-for-dollar match — up to $20 per visit — for every dollar spent on produce. New this summer, the Market is one of the only farmers markets in the region to offer the Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program.