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Livingston Hunger Council Expands Community Garden Network

Livingston County now has 12 community gardens growing and donating food to Gleaners Food Bank.

Livingston Hunger Council Community Garden Director Kay Simmons has had her hands full this year with trying to recruit volunteers and tend multiple gardens during a hot, drought-filled summer.

One of the more pleasant parts of her job was adding five new community gardens to the network, rounding out the total number of Livingston Hunger Council community gardens to 12.

The new gardens this year include the United Methodist Church Hartland, Fowlerville - to directly benefit the Family Impact Center, The Well Church and First United Methodist Church of Brighton as well as a private residence off McClements Road in Brighton.

"It means more produce and enables us to have more distribution out in the community," Simmons said of the additional gardens. "Not only are we meeting the food pantry's needs, we can go out into the community. People who are having food insecurity are not necessarily having food emergencies where they can come into Gleaners to get food."

Last year, the Livingston Hunger Council had 18 distributions out into the community, according to Simmons.

"We are working to develop more distribution spots throughout the county this summer as well," Simmons said. "My aim is to have one weekly 'free farmers market'  at various spots throughout the county. Having this many gardens growing for the Hunger Council makes this a possibility. We are looking for volunteers to help us deliver and set up these distribution spots, as well as work in the gardens, and a few folks to work once a week or so at the Shared Harvest Pantry (Gleaners) to help stock the produce there."

Some other distribution sites Simmons wants to target are the Brighton Village Mobile Home Park, Lunch Bunch locations, Alan's Park in Fowlerville and several apartment complexes in Howell.

Although the First United Methodist Church in Hartland just joined the Hunger Council this year, it is actually their third year having a giving garden.

Renee Zimmerman, one of two garden volunteers at the church, said they joined with the network because they were having a hard time getting volunteers to help weed and keep up the garden.

"It's been a really hard year to get anybody to volunteer because it it hasn't been pouring rain - like it has the last week - it's been 100 degrees everyday," she said. "It's been a year of extremes."

Currently, the garden has three plots filled with lettuce, tomato, zucchini, sweet corn and beats.

Zimmerman said the seeds are donated from the congregation and vary each year.

This is the first year for a garden at The Well Church in Brighton. Church member Judy Wells became a member of the Hunger Council and serves on the Nutrition Education Sub-committee.

"Our church is only a few years old, and we want to make an impact on the local community as well as partnering with local agencies that help families," Wells said. "I am less that a year from my Bachelor's in Nutrition, and have been working on developing a nutrition education curriculum. What better way to start nutrition education than starting it right from seed. It has been a fantastic opportunity to network with other churches and organizations who are striving to reach the same goal as The Well Church, to make that positive impact on the community."

Gardens continued from last year are the Victory Garden at Brighton NC Machine, Emrich Retreat Center, Chem Trend, Hartland 4-H Rangers, Salvation Army, Hidden Springs Church and the First United Methodist Church of Howell.

For more information about the Livingston Hunger Council, visit www.livingstonhunger.com.

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