HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Empower at the Bridge Foundation is teaming up with The GIANT Company to create a community garden that will provide fresh produce to an area of Harrisburg considered a food desert.
The new community “Bleacher Garden” will be located at the headquarters of The Bridge Eco-Village, at the former Bishop McDevitt High School. The goal is to provide food-insecure families with regular produce in the future.
Empower at the Bridge Foundation used the wooden bleachers from the old football field to create garden beds. They are also putting beds in the stands to create a terraced garden.
“The goal is to plant vegetables in all of the beds going up,” Ron Hawes, GIANT director of store support, said.
Hawes is one of several volunteers from GIANT who helped start the planting Friday. He said volunteering in the community is very important to the Giant Company.
“The only way you really know your community is by getting involved in your community,” he said.
Organizers hope the garden will yield between 6,000 to 10,000 pounds of vegetables in the first year, enough to supply 120 families with 50 pounds each of fresh vegetables over the growing season. They hope that the yield will increase by about 25% over the next few years.
“There will be a series of different farmers markets that will actually provide some on site,” Garry Gilliam, chairman of Empower at The Bridge Foundation, said. Gilliam also said he working with local municipalities to make the food available to families on food stamps.
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The garden is part of a larger project in the works works to transform the former high school into an “eco-village,” a mixed-use development. Gilliam plans to include housing, a medical clinic, office space and many other features.
“There’s spaces to work, eat, live, learn and play for the entire community,” he said.
Gilliam said he hopes this space becomes an oasis in Harrisburg.
“I believe that people see The Bridge as hope, inspiration. It gives them something to look forward to, to be a part of, and I think that’s really what a lot of us are looking for,” Gilliam said. “This is a great way to bring us all together, get our hands in the soil, get grounded, and move forward.”
The project has the support of the governor. It recently received a $4 million grant to help with development.
Gov. Tom Wolf and his wife attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the garden Friday morning.
Learn more about The Bridge Eco-Village and the Bleacher Garden here.