According to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” studies, 7 percent of Montgomery County residents are facing food insecurity with an estimated rise to 11.1 percent in 2020. Many food pantries have experienced a 50 percent increase in demand over the past few months, thereby heightening the need for broad collective action to support the health and well-being of local communities.
Food Security, Job Training, and Self-Sufficiency
To address this increasing food insecurity in the community, The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) will establish a new Green Resource Center in Montgomery County’s Norristown Farm Park. The PHS Green Resource Center – to be operational in Spring 2021 – will include amenities and services to benefit the local community: a teaching farm, a greenhouse with appropriate heating and cooling systems powered in part by solar energy, shade area for seedlings, a wash station, a pavilion for public programming, pollinator gardens, community garden beds, and workforce development opportunities in conjunction with YWCA Tri-County Area.
The Center will offer education, material distribution, technical assistance, seedling propagation, and networking – supplying the necessary resources for gardeners to strengthen their neighborhoods by increasing access to fresh food and helping to cultivate strong social connections across barriers of age, language, and race.
With funding from the Montgomery County CARES Act Food Security Assistance and Workforce Development Program, the PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will support a county-wide effort to engage and support gardeners to grow more food for themselves and their neighbors, which has become critically important during the COVID-19 pandemic. This funding will also provide support for job training in the field of horticulture.
“As a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19, it is estimated that over 100,000 Montgomery County residents are experiencing difficulty accessing nutritious food for themselves and their families,” said Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “That is why the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners approved $1 million in CARES Act funding for the County’s Food Security Assistance and Workforce Development Program. This new (PHS) program will increase food sovereignty for participants, their families, and their communities while also providing tools for job training and self-reliance for the future.”
PHS’s VP and Chief of Healthy Neighborhoods, Julianne Schrader Ortega, states, “The PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will provide the training, space, and resources for Montgomery County residents to learn about gardening and careers in the field of horticulture while also being a vital place to nurture social connections with others.”
The PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park will also support YWCA Tri-County Area’s workforce development efforts, which expects to serve 200 people this year. Participants in YWCA’s Food for Success program will receive hands-on education and soft skills training in horticulture from PHS. Participants in YWCA’s culinary arts training program, Dignity Kitchen, will receive education and harvested produce.
“YWCA is committed to drive change, to listen, to support and most importantly, to act,” said Stacey Woodland, Executive Director of YWCA Tri-County Area.
On March 27, 2020, Congress passed, and the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which established a new $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) for state, county, and municipal governments with populations of over 500,000 people to address necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Montgomery County received $145 million to assist with the COVID-19 response. To combat food insecurity and bolster workforce development for Montgomery County residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners approved $1 million in CARES Act funding for the County’s Food Security Assistance and Workforce Development Program which in part is helping to fund the PHS Green Resource Center at Farm Park.
About the Collaborators
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), an internationally recognized nonprofit organization founded in 1827, plays an essential role in the vitality of the Philadelphia region by creating healthier living environments, increasing access to fresh food, growing economic opportunity, and building deeper social connections between people. PHS delivers this impact through comprehensive greening and engagement initiatives in more than 250 neighborhoods; an expansive network of public gardens and landscapes; year-round learning experiences; and the nation’s signature gardening event, the Philadelphia Flower Show. PHS provides everyone with opportunities to garden for the greater good as a participant, member, donor, or volunteer.
Founded in 1908, YWCA Tri-County Area serves more than 1,500 women, children, and families as an educational organization that is empowering and inclusive, providing programs which encourage individuals to learn, grow, become, and take a stand. YWCA Tri-County Area is a leader in advocating for girls and women, and families providing quality programs and services designed to support and enrich the community. Direct service programming includes early childhood education, before- and after-school enrichment, youth/girls’ development, adult education, and workforce development. Mission-based advocacy efforts raise awareness, offer issue education, and build social capital around women’s empowerment, racial and social justice, and safe and healthy communities.
Montgomery County, Pennsylvania is one of the most diverse, historic, and economically vibrant counties in America. As the third largest county in Pennsylvania, more than 830,000 people call Montco home. Within its 487 square miles, Montgomery County offers award-winning trails and parks, including Valley Forge National Historic Park. There are also countless locations to shop, take in a show, or enjoy a wide range of local food and drink. County officials and employees take pride in serving the people who live, work, and visit Montgomery County.