Food

Five Towns Community Center garden harvest food and life lessons | Herald Community Newspapers

Five Towns Community Center garden harvest food and life lessons |  Herald Community Newspapers
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With the end of summer, the garden of the Five Towns Community Center is getting ready for the harvest season. The garden was revived in 2018 after the launch of Gammy’s Pantry, a food pantry at the Lawrence Community Center that has helped people in need of food.

Pantry founder Sasha Young, a native of Inwood, created the pantry with her twin daughters Alexandra and Alexis Acosta two years ago, after her grandmother Betty Young, whom she named Gammy, passed away over Christmas in 2018.

Girl Scout Troop 720, to which the daughters belong, thought about creating a butterfly garden outside the community center in Betty Young’s honor. The Girl Scouts started the butterfly garden with plants that would attract bees.

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Now, at the end of the growing season, the garden is ready to harvest cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. This year, the garden tried to grow cilantro, basil and various types of Italian herbs, as well as various types of peppers and seasonings for South American cuisine. “The idea we put forward was to grow fruits and vegetables that are more culturally based on people living in our community,” Sasha said.

Girl Scout Troop 720, along with volunteers from Gammy’s Pantry, helped with the garden and focused on recruiting volunteers from a wide age range.

“We have about six seniors who help and then they give direction to the teens out there,” Sasha said. “The seniors give the old school advice. Our youngest volunteer is three and our oldest volunteer is 92. We try to bring the generations together and help them teach each other.”

Maria Rosa Guzzardi is one of the senior volunteers in the garden and has been volunteering for over five years. Guzzardi noted the importance of teaching the younger generations the tricks of gardening. “People, especially the younger generation, think that food just comes right away,” she said. “They forget about taking care of the seeds and planting. The things we make in the garden make a big difference.”

Farrioq Ali is one of the teenage volunteers who has been volunteering in the garden since October 2020. “One of my friends told me he was volunteering at the community center so I thought I might as well go and help,” Ali said. “I had never gardened before going to the community center and what I like is helping the people who come to the community center for food.”

The garden wants to expand with a pumpkin field that will soon start for the fall festival. “We’re going to start with our pumpkins and next year we’re going to open those boxes for community members to create cultural boxes,” Young said.

The garden has been a great asset to many in the Five Cities. Teaching the old generation to the younger generations is very important. “It’s what family does,” Guzzardi said. “To me it’s a family.”

“It’s all about collaboration and people being able to spend time together and build relationships after Covid,” Young said. “We’re kind of in a food desert right now, just as our local grocery store closed over a year ago (Stop & Shop in Inwood) and families are forced to make a long trek to Rockaway Turnpike, which when you have small kids isn’t even possible. .”

“Most of the families we serve are struggling financially and the cost of food has increased exponentially,” Young added. “The fact that we can grow some things here can ease the financial burden and also give them a bit of a taste, at home.”

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