Up from the Earth Chops Away at Food Insecurity

Did you know that one in six adults and one in five children in Siouxland are food insecure? That translates to about 12,000 to 13,000 local Siouxlanders who don’t know where their next meal is coming from and are facing hunger regularly, or 13.4% of Woodbury and 8.5% of Dakota County residents. State wide over 400,000 Iowans and over 225,000 Nebraskans are food insecure. Feeding America sites that 1 in 89 people in the US struggle with hunger and food insecurity.  

After learning this, something had to be done to help those in our own community, thus Up from the Earth was born. In 2014, Up from the Earth started as a voluntary system for connecting excess produce from home gardens to people in need. The group facilitates the collection and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables through an existing pantry system in the community. They started with ten pilot sites and collected 7,000 pounds of produce.  Currently, collection sights are all over the area. Six sites are in Nebraska, five on the Northside, ten in Midtown and Westside and eight in the Morningside area. That’s almost 30 sites in Siouxland! 

After finishing their fifth growing season, a grand total exceeding 100,000 pounds (over 300,000 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables!) were collected and shared with those in need. A true testimony of the concern, generosity and commitment to address hunger in our community.  

Partners with Up from the Earth include Master Gardeners, Women United, NACCHO, ISU Extension at Woodbury County, Dakota County Voices for Food, Morningside College Creative Edge Advertising, Blue Zone Pop-up Park and Siouxland District Health.  

So, what can you do this time of year? In January, the Zucchini Guy (aka Mark Raymond) received all of his seed catalogs, looked through them and has ordered a few new packets of seeds (it’s immaterial whether there will be room to plant them all!).  He tries at least three new vegetable varieties each year, such as winged beans, purple carrots or Japanese cucumbers. 

How can you help? You can get seeds and start growing too! A few favorite places for seeds are Kitazawa which specializes in Asian vegetables (so much Bok Choy, so little time) and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com). 

First time gardeners, it’s getting time to start looking for places to plant a small garden. Start collecting garden tools and review the types of plants and seeds you will need. Our local garden store Earl May has trained people year-round to help as needed. 

Already have a garden?  Make plans to expand your existing garden and grow an extra row. 

Want to get involved?  Check out the Facebook page, www.facebook.com/upfromtheearth and reach out through the website at, https://upfromtheearth.wixsite.com/siouxland.    

Pam Mickelson is a retired professor and chair of the Business and Accounting Department  at Morningside College.  She is a leader in the marketing community and a garden enthusiast.   

Randy Burnight is a retired dentist and the founder of Up from the Earth.  He is a master gardener and a recipient of the American Red Cross Heroes of the Heartland.