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Food bank profiting from youngsters' work

GRANTS PASS — Casey Carter and Ryan Beairsto are spending part of their summer vacation digging trenches. And they love it.

The two are part of a small but loyal group of volunteers who spend Tuesdays and Saturdays weeding, planting and, eventually, harvesting vegetables from the school-and-community garden at Fruitdale Elementary School. Most of the harvest will be donated to the Josephine County Food Bank.

"It's hard work but worth it," said Casey, who will be a fifth-grader this fall at Fruitdale. "It is going to help a lot of people at the Food Bank."

Ryan Beairsto said his family will likely be fine through the recession and won't need the help of the Food Bank. "My family can afford food but there are so many families who can't," he said. "It's pretty nice to be able to help."

The Fruitdale garden is one of several in the community involved in the Food Bank's "Plant a Row" program to help put more fresh produce on people's tables.

Food Bank Manager Susan Scheufele said people have dropped off lettuce, peas, herbs and a few tomatoes so far. The Food Bank has harvested Swiss chard from its own garden, as well. "The fresh produce is going out as soon as it comes in," she added. "We're distributing it the same day we receive it. Our families are really looking forward to it. Fresh produce is so expensive. They appreciate being able to have a fresh green salad or tomatoes to give to their families."

Scheufele said people just need to drop the produce off. The Food Bank's shelves are close to bare and the food the organization gets from federal sources is dwindling.

"We'll take anything so long as it is in good condition," she added. "We are really low on food right now. Really low."

Fruitdale's garden organizer Sue Calvert is hoping the produce from the garden will help the Food Bank. Vegetables are just starting to come up since being planted in May. The first batch of lettuce — about 7 pounds — has already been donated to the Food Bank and the Gospel Rescue Mission.

Volunteers are weeding, watering, creating a compost pile and planting more vegetables that were donated by Greenleaf Industries, including onions, corn, beans, zucchini, carrots, squash and more.

"We should have tomatoes in another month," Calvert said. "We are trying to stagger our production."

Calvert said the children who volunteer will also have their names entered in a drawing to receive one of the pumpkins growing in the garden this fall. They will also get "paid" for their hard work with some of the garden's vegetables.

"I'm thrilled beyond measure at every aspect of this garden," she added. "The local resources have been amazing."

Having a chance to help out the community was part of the draw of working in the garden for Cody Beairsto and Zack Carter, who are related to Ryan Beairsto and Casey Carter.

"This is a way to give back to the school, to the community," said Cody, who will be a ninth-grader at North Valley this fall. "It keeps you busy and gives us something to do this summer. It's better than staying home and doing nothing."

With the tough economy, Zack Carter knows there are people in need who will benefit from the food grown in the garden.

"We need more help, though," he said. "It's always nice to see new people."


On the Net:

Josephine County Food Bank: http:www.oregonfoodbank.org/ofb—services/statewide—services/region al—food—bank.html?county


Greenleaf Industries: http:www.greenleafindustries.org/