Master's Table soup kitchen community garden expanded

Soon, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers and other vegetables will be growing again at the Master’s Table soup kitchen garden.

The garden on Fenwick Street was upgraded Wednesday, thanks to donations and volunteers from Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly and Co. Fifty Elanco employees pulled weeds, built planting beds and installed a water conservation system using water from the building’s air conditioning unit.

Produce harvested from the garden goes straight into the soup kitchen, a mission of Golden Harvest Food Bank, where the chef and volunteers prepare meals. On Wednesday, the guests ate collard greens from the garden.

“We really believe in a nutritional component to our program as well,” said Chris Turner, Golden Harvest’s chief development officer. “People that are impoverished don’t have funds to purchase sustainable produce.”

For more than a year, the garden was harvesting produce but the renovations will help grow great quantities of food for the Master’s Table, Turner said. So far this year, the soup kitchen has served an average 325 lunches each day, up slightly from 2012.

Elanco employee Grant Summers led a team configuring a hose line to run from the air conditioning system to the garden. The system should produce up to four gallons of water per hour during summer months, he said.

“Right now, it’s going into a drainage hole. That’s clean water,” he said.

The group installed eight planting beds, bringing the garden’s total to 42 beds.

Elanco, an animal health products company, has an ongoing partnership with Golden Harvest, said Jaime Brown, the company’s environmental leader. Employees will visit the garden in a few weeks to plant vegetables and will help maintain it regularly.

“We know there is a great need in Richmond County, and every little thing we can do to help alleviate (food insecurity) is something we want to do,” Brown said.

Elanco donated $10,000 to the Master’s Table and $2,000 to Golden Harvest’s backpack program that sends food home with school children, Turner said.

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