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Monday Morning Mercy / Issue 8 / March 31

#MondayMorningMercy is our series highlighting some of the best stories that truly explain the meaning of Feed. Clothe. House. Heal. This week we talk about how SVdP leverages the expertise of two master gardeners to produce a renewable produce resource for five dining rooms.

St. Vincent de Paul’s main campus, which houses our central kitchen and family dining room, is just south of downtown and in the middle of a “food desert.” According to the USDA, food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.

With the help of two expert gardeners Tony Kasowski and Jim Dennis, SVdP turned one and a half acre of an empty lot into a thriving urban garden. The garden is currently growing tomatoes, citrus, kale, lettuce, chard, beets and radishes.

Tony and Jim volunteer at least two days a week at the garden, tending to the garden and teaching other volunteers valuable skills to grow food naturally and without pesticides in the desert. Creative gardening methods include incorporating juice pulp donated by Kaleidoscope Juice to create nutrient-rich soil. Since starting the garden in November last year, they have already harvested over 100 pounds of rainbow chard, which was incorporated into meals served at our five dining rooms.

“It feels great to be part of an organization that does so much good in the community,” Tony said. “I love seeing others getting involved and working together too.”

Having volunteered alongside homeless guests at the community garden adjacent to our downtown Phoenix dining room, Tony and Jim saw the joy others got out of gardening.

“It was very empowering for them,” Jim said “I hope to do something similar, to get the community here involved at this garden too.”

The garden team started selling some of the produce at farmers’ markets to expand the project. Tony and Jim are exploring other ways to bring produce into residential neighborhoods without easy access to fresh foods.

“It’s a great use of an empty lot. It beautifies the area and produces healthy food,” Tony said. “I want others to see that it can be done. Once you know the possibilities, it doesn’t make sense not to do it.”

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Stories like this don’t happen without the support of people like you. You really do have the power to Feed. Clothe. House. Heal. our neighbors in need. Contribute to the cause by donating, volunteering, or learning more. 

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