In one of the most “fruitful” acts of service seen on the campus, The Leach Teaching Gardens regularly donates hundreds of pounds of fresh produce to the Brazos Valley Food Bank every year to help provide nutritious food to children and adults in need.
The Leach Teaching Gardens, a part of The Gardens at Texas A&M University, is impacting the lives of people in the surrounding community, as well as the university.
“A public garden without the involvement of the community is simply a place with beautiful plants,” said Michael Arnold, Ph.D., director of The Gardens and professor of landscape horticulture in the Department of Horticultural Sciences at the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“However, The Gardens is a public garden on the campus of a land-grant university, and we are grateful to be a space that supports the impactful research, teaching, extension and service that comes with that land-grant mission.”
Nourishing the community through donations of fresh produce
The Brazos Valley Food Bank serves Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Madison, Robertson and Washington counties. And with over 15% of households within Brazos County — Texas A&M’s home county — experiencing food insecurity, the need for nutritious, donated produce is high.
Theresa Mangapora, executive director of the Brazos Valley Food Bank, said their goal is not just feeding people but also nourishing them by distributing fresh produce as well as teaching a foundational understanding of nutrition. To meet this goal, the food bank aims to have at least 50% of the food they distribute be fresh produce.
The type and amount of produce The Gardens donates varies by season and from year to year. Mangapora said that for 100 pounds of food, the food bank can distribute about 83 meals. That means that produce from the 900 pounds The Gardens donated in 2021 could have been part of at least 750 meals.
Although state-level programs support saving surplus Texas-grown produce, getting it to the Brazos Valley is not free, making the locally grown produce donated by The Gardens even more helpful, Mangapora said.
“We see people’s eyes light up when they see we are offering them fresh produce,” Mangapora said. “With a limited budget, fresh fruits and vegetables can be too expensive for such a short shelf life. If we can continue to make the freshest and most nutritious food available to our neighbors facing hunger, we want to make that a priority.”
Producing far-reaching impacts
Donating produce is part of the planning for many of The Gardens’ educational and research projects that often benefit several audiences, Arnold said.
For example, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences students might plant a vegetable garden and learn about growing vegetables. That garden can also be used for demonstration activities for other classes as well as adult and youth groups. Then, produce harvested from the garden is donated to various food pantries in the community.
“We are proud to be an asset to the Texas A&M campus, the greater Brazos Valley and beyond,” Arnold said.
The produce is harvested from several of the garden spaces within the Leach Teaching Gardens made possible by generous donors:
- Bethancourt Family Kitchen Garden, donated by Deborah F. ’76 and John E. Bethancourt ’74.
- Eleanor and Curtis Taber ’62 Vegetable Farm Garden, donated by Wendy ’91 and Steve Taber ’89 and Southwest Wholesale Nursery.
- Fruit Orchard, donated by Elizabeth A. ’79 and Gary B. Young ’77.
- Martha and James H. Ware Memorial Citrus Grove, donated by Anna ’86 and Mike Martin ’87.
To learn how you can leave your legacy at the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, contact Bailey Allison at [email protected].
Find out more about the Brazos Valley Food Bank and ways you can help at https://www.bvfb.org.