Going Green for the Homeless. What a concept, and what, exactly, does it mean? Two women in Colorado came up with the concept. They thought that seeing flower beds in city parks was beautiful, but certainly more could be done. They spoke with city and county parks and recreation cepartments and garnered permission to place a vegetable garden in one of the premier city parks.

Going Green for the Homeless. What a concept, and what, exactly, does it mean? Two women in Colorado came up with the concept. They thought that seeing flower beds in city parks was beautiful, but certainly more could be done. They spoke with city and county parks and recreation cepartments and garnered permission to place a vegetable garden in one of the premier city parks.

This is not any old vegetable garden either – the produce from this garden is to feed the homeless. Did you know that on any given night almost 700,000 people are homeless in the United States. In Missouri, 11 percent of our population is homeless. Of these people, 18 percent have no shelter at all (according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, April 2011 statistics). Some homeless people visit meal centers or food pantries, but rarely do they have fresh vegetables or fruits.

Dana Miller and Barbara Masoner wanted to change that by planting attractive, nutritious vegetable gardens throughout city parks. The first year they were granted permission to convert one flower garden into one vegetable garden in one city park. It was so successful they were then allowed to convert six gardens in four city parks. In 2011, they have been granted 13 vegetable gardens in eight different city parks.

Vegetable gardens take a bit of care to maintain with watering, weeding, let alone the harvesting. Dana and Barbara knew that even with their pack of volunteers they were not going to be able to handle it all – nor did they want to. They want the local communities to “buy in” to the project, so they collaborate with neighborhood groups, nonprofits and churches to plant, maintain and harvest the gardens. In turn, these local community groups choose to which food banks and shelters the produce is distributed.  

Another element of the city park vegetable gardens is to demonstrate to city dwellers how attractive vegetable gardens can be grown. Masoner explains that encouraging city residents to grow their food locally reduces fuel emissions. She says that 25 percent of our emissions can be traced to the transportation costs for food; and that the average food item travels 1,500 miles to get to our table. These emission costs also reflect the farming and trucking costs to the transportation distributor.

Planting vegetable gardens in city parks not only provides fresh, wholesome vegetables for the homeless – they provide attractive, alternative gardening viewscapes – and they demonstrate to city dwellers the beauty, rewards and comparable ease of vegetable gardening.

Going Green for the Homeless – what a revolutionary concept!