21st century victory gardens: Planting a seed for neighbors in need in Philadelphia

ByAlicia Vitarelli and Wendy Daughenbaugh WPVI logo
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Plant a seed to help your neighbor in need
Even before the pandemic, it was estimated that 1 in 5 Philadelphians did not have enough food to eat. Now that need has only deepened.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Victory Gardens were planted all across the United States during World War I and II to ease the burden on the food supply and boost public morale. Now, with so many people struggling with the pandemic and the corresponding economic recession, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is taking a page from history, asking people to plant a seed for their neighbors in need.

At the massive new PHS Popup Garden in Philadelphia's Manayunk section, you can relax among the plants as long as the weather holds out. But all year long, you might see PHS workers and volunteers there.

"You ladies want to plant some peas?" calls out PHS city harvest coordinator Ed Mittinger as he helps lead a group planting and picking produce to donate to a neighborhood food pantry.

"We anticipate like lots and lots of produce being donated throughout all of next year," says Christine Tessaro, associate director of PHS Popup Gardens.

It's part of the PHS Harvest 2020 program launched in May in response to the pandemic.

"We asked our community of gardeners to dig in and plant food crops, with extra to share for families in need," explains PHS associate director of sales, Michelle Ullman.

Around the region, more than 10,000 individuals and organizations have raised their hands to help.

"Can you weed?," Rick Parton asks his granddaughters. He and his wife Carol are among the Harvest 2020 gardeners.

"Dig a little bit deeper," Carol coaches, as the couple teaches their grandchildren the value of growing for the greater good.

"It really makes me happy that like the food is going to a good place and to people in need," says granddaughter Julianna Palo.

Tyler Arboretum has joined the Harvest 2020 program as well.

"We know that the demand has certainly increased as people are unemployed or perhaps underemployed," says Tyler Arboretum executive director, Mandy Santiago.

Tyler first planted its edible garden last year, with a plan to grow food for the arboretum's cooking classes and then donate any extra produce.

"Last year, we donated about 1,000 pounds to the Media Food Bank," Santiago says.

This year, she says, Tyler is hoping to double the garden's output.

So far, gardeners in the Harvest 2020 program have grown more than 32,000 pounds of food.

"I think it's such a brilliant idea. It's a way for neighbors to help neighbors, ensuring they have not just access to food but fresh, healthy produce. What could be better than that?" said Loree Jones, chief executive officer of Philabundance.

On the PHS website, you can see a real-time tally of how much produce is being donated through the Harvest 2020 initiative.

6abc Dunkin Holiday Food Drive | Connect.Share.Give

PHS Pop Up Garden in Manayunk |Website |

106 Jamestown Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19127

To Volunteer in the garden, email Cristina Tessaro: CTessaro@PennHort.org

Tyler Arboretum | Website

515 Painter Rd, Media, PA 19063

(610) 566-9134

Philabundance | Website

3616 S. Galloway Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19148