Tammy Graeber of Saylorsburg says, "Hunger is a hidden epidemic."
As the Garden of Giving president and founder, Tammy knows many people that make too much money to qualify for federal food assistance.
"Sometimes folks find it difficult to buy enough food for themselves and their families. Buying food often takes second place to paying for rent, utility bills and medical expenses," she says.
Many people turn to local food banks for government surplus items (canned goods, applesauce, peanut butter, dried milk and beans) and a small selection of donated food.
Families, senior citizens, young parents, and people with physical disabilities or illnesses find themselves in need because of people losing jobs and having difficulty paying medical bills and day care expenses.
"According to the United States Department of Agriculture statistics, 35 million people face hunger in the United States. Twelve percent of Americans could not put food on the table at some point during the year," she says.
Yet advocates say in the United States it's hard to shake the perception that hunger is only a problem in developing and third world countries. When people think of hunger, they think of images of starving children in Africa with swollen bellies and emaciated limbs.
"It's important to remind people that it is an issue. People still don't think of hunger as a problem in America. If it wasn't for the efforts in the private sector such as Gleaming, Second Harvest in all 50 states, and the Garden of Giving, the problems would be much worse," says Tammy.
A year ago, Tammy says the Lord placed upon her heart, to try and do something about this issue in her own community. She had land (two and a half acres) and a desire to provide healthy fresh produce to the area's food banks.
"For children, nutrition is very dangerous because it effects growth, mental and physical health, and to perform well at school.
Monroe County has 16 food bank facilities and the Garden of Giving has a goal to house and supply each one thru its unstoppable efforts to join with Community Service Agriculture (CSA) gardens, and local farmers as well, as its two-and-a-half acre parcel supplies them with fresh produce and eggs and supplying them with the nutrients and important vitamins that the community needs," says Tammy.
She reached out to the parishioners in her own church, Effort United Methodist Church, and organizations in Monroe County.
What she got was donations of plants, seeds and volunteers to plant a garden. The fresh produce raised was all donated to the food banks and was considered a great success.
Now it's planting season again and the Garden of Giving is hoping to have another successful growing season.
Tammy is very excited about the Garden receiving its 501C3 nonprofit charitable status, which enables her to apply for grants.
In the meantime, she's still dependent upon the community to help the Garden.
She has volunteers, Jim and Glen Smith, to plow, disc and rototill and use their rock hound this year. They have also committed to growing a crop of corn to be donated to the Garden for distribution.
Kenro Farms is donating flats of plants.
Friends and the Monroe County Technical Institute have offered to grow plants from seeds in flats that have all been donated.
Again Girl Scout Troop 541 has volunteered to help prep the garden and do some composting in April.
On May 17, Tammy plans to dedicate the Garden of Giving in her mother's name, Gloria Jane (Tina) Graeber. She passed away Nov. 2008, before she could see the Garden come to life.
"I'm dedicating it to Mom because she had the most enduring spirit of giving of anyone I've ever known," says Tammy.
Recently she received a $250 savings bond from Red Robin, of which she is an employee, for being Team Member of the Year, which she has donated to the Garden.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Inc., was founded on four core values: Honor, Integrity, Continually Seeking Knowledge and Having Fun. These core values are the foundation for every Red Robin decision and can be found embroidered on the sleeve of every Team Member's uniform. They are also core values Tammy tries to live outside of the job as well.
The Fraternal Order of Eagles' Ladies Auxiliary donated to the Garden of Giving, $1,166.60 for nesting boxes for the chickens Tammy hopes to soon have at the Garden to lay fresh eggs for the food banks.
Sometimes she feels overwhelmed by it all.
"But I know this is what I'm called to do, to supply food banks with healthier food to nourish those who need. I have faith this is God's will. I receive and accept whatever He brings my way and I hope the Garden of Giving to be a blessing to all those who need it," she says.
(To continue answering this call, Tammy needs all the help she can get from donations (monetary-checks made out to Garden of Giving- plants, equipment, to volunteers to work the garden and to serve on the board. She is looking for a volunteer secretary who is familiar with Quick Books. You can get in contact with Tammy at 570-402-1282 or send donations to: Tammy Graeber, RR# 6 Box 6580C, Saylorsburg, PA 18353.)