Kids deposit vegetables in food bank

Eighth-Grader Nathan Kircher harvests some spinach for the food bank. - Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times
Eighth-Grader Nathan Kircher harvests some spinach for the food bank.
— image credit: Nathan Whalen/Whidbey News-Times

While canned food drives are a regular occurrence at local schools, students at Coupeville Middle School are doing something a bit different. Several eighth-graders teamed up to grow and harvest vegetables that were donated to the local food bank.

The middle schoolers spent part of their school day last week picking spinach, onions and lettuce.

“We get to help out the community. It’s good to help people in need,” eighth-grader Tim Quinn said after pulling greens from the ground. He said the class was able to see the entire growth process from seed to maturity.

Katy Verble echoed Quinn’s comments.

“It was a good way to help people who might not have enough money to get food,” Verble said. She learned that raising vegetables is a lot of work.

Quinn and Verble are part of a Community Service Connection class at Coupeville Middle School. The students started growing their vegetables last February in the school’s greenhouse before transplanting them to six nearby beds when the weather improved, teacher Terry Welch said.

The students have delivered fresh vegetables to Gifts from the Heart food bank three times this year. The first time, students walked to the food bank with 14 bags of food. Students packed 32 bags the second delivery and 35 quart-sized bags of fresh spinach and lettuce on last week’s delivery.

Welch said the idea for growing food for Gifts from the Heart came from Lori Spear at Hummingbird Farm who suggested gardeners should plant an extra row in their garden and donate crops to the food bank.

Students in the middle school class completed several other community service projects throughout the year. They participated in a prairie restoration project and compiled a food asset map that highlights the crops that are grown on Whidbey Island.

For the garden project, Welch said the Coupeville Education Foundation, the Coupeville Arts and Crafts Festival, the South Whidbey Garden Tour and Garden Club provided support for the project. She appreciated the help Linda Bartlett of Rosehip Farms and Nursery provided the students.

The middle school students aren’t the only ones providing Gifts from the Heart with fresh produce. The Community Supported Agriculture training program at the Greenbank Farm has shares providing vegetables to food banks on Central and South Whidbey Island. Several plots in a community garden that sprang up in Coupeville also provide food.

In addition to home-grown produce, Gifts from the Heart receives produce from Northwest Harvest, but items can vary from potatoes and onions to artichokes and mangos.

“Either we have it or we don’t,” said Molly Hughes of Gifts from the Heart.

With the declining economy, the number Central Whidbey residents needing more food is rising.

Hughes said the number of people needing food earlier in the year increased 45 percent over the same time last year.

“We have never run out of food,” Hughes said. Food is doled out the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month from the building that doubles as the Coupeville Boys and Girls Club. Hughes said close to a 100 families have been showing up for food.

Food donations slow during the summer because schools aren’t in session, there aren’t a lot food drives scheduled and there’s no holidays that happen which encourage food donations.

Donations for Gifts from the Heart are accepted at Prairie Center, Whidbey Island Bank in Coupeville, Coupeville United Methodist Church, Living Hope Foursquare Church, and the Honey Bear.

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