New ‘Bleacher Garden’ aims to bring produce to Harrisburg’s food desert
HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The Empower at the Bridge Foundation is partnering with The GIANT Company to create a community garden that will provide fresh produce to an area of Harrisburg considered a food desert.
The new ‘Bleacher Garden’ community will be located at The Bridge Eco-Village headquarters at the former Bishop McDevitt High School. The objective is to provide regular products to food insecure families in the future.
Empower at the Bridge Foundation used the wooden bleachers of the former football pitch to create garden beds. They also install beds in the bleachers to create a terraced garden.
“The goal is to plant vegetables in all the beds that go up,” said Ron Hawes, GIANT store support manager.
Hawes is one of many GIANT volunteers who helped get the planting started on Friday. He said volunteering in the community is very important to Giant Company.
“The only way to really know your community is to get involved in your community,” he said.
Organizers hope the garden will yield between 6,000 and 10,000 pounds of vegetables in the first year, enough to supply 120 families with 50 pounds each of fresh vegetables during the growing season. They expect the yield to increase by around 25% over the next few years.
“There will be a range of different farmers’ markets supplying it locally,” said Garry Gilliam, president of Empower at The Bridge Foundation. Gilliam also said he is working with local municipalities to make the food available to families on food stamps.
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The garden is part of a larger project currently being worked on to transform the former high school into an “eco-village”, a mixed-use development. Gilliam plans to include living quarters, a medical clinic, offices, and many other features.
“There are spaces to work, eat, live, learn and play for the whole community,” he said.
Gilliam said he hopes this space becomes an oasis in Harrisburg.
“I think people see The Bridge as hope, inspiration. It gives them something to look forward to, to be a part of, and I think that’s really what a lot of us are looking for,” Gilliam said. “It’s a great way to bring us all together, get our hands on the ground, ground ourselves and move forward.”
The project has the support of the governor. He recently received a $4 million grant to help with development.
Governor Tom Wolf and his wife attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the garden on Friday morning.
Learn more about the bridge eco-village and the laundrymen’s garden here.