Seeds to Tables: Community Education Garden in Bloom

In 2013, Action Pathways Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina saw a need for greater education in the community.

“Food security is more than the food bank. It’s learning the skills to provide for yourself and others,” explains garden volunteer Marsha Howe. Guiding Wellness Institute’s director of food education, Howe has been involved in local sustainability efforts for years, leading her to  found Sustainable Neighbors as well as Farm-A-Yard. She and Amy Stidham, an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, partnered with NC Cooperative Extension's Cumberland County Center to bring their expertise to the food bank’s distribution center on Deep Creek Road. With the support of a grant from Feeding America, the team was able to build 24 plant beds and hold monthly meetings to teach community members about the benefits of harvesting their own garden.

The Community Education Garden emphasizes the importance of learning about health and nutrition to combat food insecurity. Two of Action Pathways’ four focus areas, education and hunger are central pieces of the everyday struggles that many low-income families face. By creating initiatives like the garden workshops to cross these boundaries, Action Pathways helps address poverty in southeastern North Carolina and builds new opportunities for personal growth among clients and community members alike.

Arming people with information to plant, care for and later prepare fresh herbs and produce, Howe, Stidham and a team of volunteers stress the benefits of healthy, chemical-free foods. With simple lessons and tips - and using the plant seeds provided at monthly meetings, Average Joe can become a green thumb and grow his own food, cultivating a greater understanding of the interconnectedness of physical, mental and spiritual health.

“We need the steady stream of support from many volunteers to help us plant, water, and tend the garden,” explains Stidham, who sees the missions of the NC Cooperative Extension and the food bank linking through mutual commitments to community access - to information and food. Over the years, the garden has expanded with help from people of various ages, interests and backgrounds who have helped build new beds, compost bins and small irrigation systems. With everyone working together, the garden can help the community work toward change.

“We’re only one seed away from food security,” proclaims Howe.


If interested in volunteering with the community education garden, contact Julia Morales at (910) 485-6923, ext. 4515. Learn more about the garden's progress throughout the seasons by following Second Harvest on Facebook.


#Hunger #Education #NCCE


Community members of all ages learn about planting new seeds with Cumberland County Extension Master Gardener Volunteers.