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Salvation Army Chilliwack invites backyard growers to ‘Plant a Row For Us’

Kickoff with panel, free seeds and prizes March 12, 7 p.m. at the Salvation Army Church on Brooks
Josh Draheim, community partnerships co-ordinator for Salvation Army Chilliwack is asking gardeners to join the ‘Plant A Row For Us’ program for year two, to support their free grocery store, The Pantry with fresh produce. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Get inspired to serve the community and feed the hungry with Chilliwack Salvation Army’s upcoming ‘Plant A Row For Us’ program kickoff on March 12.

It’s a food security program where fresh produce is grown by community volunteers, and donated to The Pantry, Salvation Army’s free grocery store.

The Pantry has been feeding upward of 300 people a day some weeks, says Josh Draheim, community partnerships co-ordinator for Salvation Army Chilliwack.

“The demand has been exploding,” he said.

Some might be surprised to hear that most of the people coming to The Pantry are hard-working families, newcomers and seniors.

The regular supply of donated produce and food items from local grocery chains has not been enough to slake the growing demand.

“We need a larger supply of fruits and veggies,” Draheim underlined. “We believe that just because you’re low income doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have healthy food. We are calling on the community to help.”

That extra supply of veg can make all the difference to families trying to survive on thin margins, as one bag of groceries alone can cost $75 to $100 in stores.

“It either we increase the supply, or else we might have to close our doors early, or restrict what we can offer to Pantry clients,” he said. “That happens too often, sadly, and it’s a miserable dilemma.”

In the first year of the Grow A Row program, Salvation Army officials graciously accepted more than 50,000 lbs of produce, from 187 donors who made 357 donations in 2023.

“It made an enormous difference,” Draheim said.

Now they’re looking for an even larger 2024 season with the kickoff slated for next month.

“Celebrate the start of the growing season, and the spirit of giving back,” according to the Salvation Army Facebook post about the March 12 kickoff.

The event will feature a lively discussion about planting and growing fresh produce, and a Q&A with an expert panel of local gardening experts, including master gardener Brian Minter, and gardening experts Dan Oostenbrink, and Jack Oostenbrink.

“It promises to be an inspiring night where we learn about the impact of this program on the Food Bank, learn practical tips to increase the productivity of your garden, and take home tons of prizes to get your garden ready for the year.”

The kickoff of the ‘Plant A Row For Us’ is March 12, at 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Salvation Army Church at 46420 Brooks Ave, with prizes, free seeds, and more.

Bring a friend, and registration is required.

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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