Sparkt Bridges

Volunteers Make "Secret Garden" Grow For Neighbors In Need

It's beautiful! A family's donation of land allows a Pittsburgh non-profit to provide healthy, fresh, organic produce to people who come to their food pantry.

This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.

In the quiet community of Bellevue on the edge of the city of Pittsburgh, you'll find a surprise: a large garden bursting at the seams with vegetable plants, fruit trees, and flowers run riot.

The garden has its own apiary, where bee keepers raise bees to pollinate the plants.

It's owned and tended by the non-profit group North Hills Community Outreach, which helps people in the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh move from poverty to self-sufficiency. NHCO operates three food pantries for the one-in-seven families in the community who face what's known as food insecurity.

Root vegetables like turnips continue to allow NHCO to provide fresh produce to clients into late fall.

The garden allows the pantries to offer fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to canned and packaged items, giving clients a normal food shopping experience at some of the most difficult times in their lives.

The story of the garden itself is also a surprise, a saga dating back generations, stretching all the way back to Italy.

Over the last 9 years, NHCO has harvested over 40,000 pounds of fresh produce from the Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni garden, serving over 1,000 families in need every year.

Garden Coordinator Alyssa Crawford (far R) and her crew of volunteers keep the garden growing.

Garden Coordinator Alyssa Crawford says their clients are grateful. "It does feel really good to know that my work is making an impact on people in the community."

The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced with the generous support of UPMC. Life Changing Medicine.

How can you start something good?

If you'd like to get involved with volunteering at the Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Garden, contact Garden Coordinator Alyssa Crawford.

There are lots of other ways to get involved with North Hills Community Outreach:

Click here to find other ways to volunteer.

Click here to find out how to hold a food collection to support NHCO's three pantries. More than 95% of what the pantries distribute to families in need is donated by people in the community who care.

Click here to donate to NHCO.

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