Growing a Food Pantry Garden

The newly built beds at Gospel Tabernacle Outreach Ministries will grow fresh food for its food pantry clients and will hopefully serve as a model for other food pantry and food bank sites in cities like Providence.

Southside Community Land Trust is excited to welcome a new community garden into its garden network – the Gospel Tabernacle Outreach Ministry (GTOM) garden. The GTOM community garden is the first of its kind in Providence and hopes to be a replicable model for other food pantries and food banks on a small urban scale. This garden was possible thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and SCLT’s Providence Community Growers Network (PCGN).

Initially sparked by the popularity of a community gardening workshop at the RICFB, Loni McGrath, Agency Services Coordinator, reached out to SCLT to target Providence food pantries interested in creating a unique type of community garden at their sites. The RI Community Food Bank sponsored the GTOM garden to join the PCGN, enabling them to receive free/discounted garden resources like compost and fish emulsion, as well as be a site to host food-growing workshops. And ultimately both organizations share the common goal of providing Providence residents access to healthy, fresh, locally grown food.

Why link community gardens with food banks? According to Food Security, “Community food security is such an approach that many food banks and other groups have implemented [because] the value of incorporating community food security measures …can increase [the food bank’s] capacity to address multiple needs and problems and provide a valuable tool for community building that fosters self-reliance…It also creates a wealth of opportunity to implement innovative solutions that address the root causes of hunger and move people out of poverty. Embodying these practices into a food banking operation establishes a more dynamic system that fosters social change and directly challenges dependence.”

Although the food pantry- community garden model is a popular and sensible idea, it hasn’t taken firm root in Providence. However, the opportunity is promising — the potential foods grown at the food pantry gardens can supply the food pantry and/ or meal site. Volunteers and food pantry clients can help with garden maintenance while learning about growing their own food.


Jennifer Watkins, the key coordinator in the GTOM garden effort, is excited for the impact the garden will have on its food panty and soup kitchen clients. “We want our clients to have access to growing their own food. This new garden allows them the space and community building opportunities for that,” says Watkins. The GTOM garden is growing radishes, lettuce, carrots, green beans, thai hot peppers, and tomatoes. Watkins hopes to see not only the GTOMgarden grow, but for other food pantries in Providence to start growing gardens and fresh food for their clients as well. We look forward to the bounty that lies ahead!

The GTOM is located on 145 Oakland Avenue. They hold their food pantry on the second Monday of the month at 5:30-7pm and the fourth Monday of the month at 6-7pm. Their meal site, or soup kitchen, is held on the second and fourth Saturday of the month at 3-4pm. Contact Lenny or Jennifer Watkins (401)454-0988 for more information.


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