Gardeners grow produce for families in need

By Amber Keller


You’ve probably noticed a fenced-in garden area at the Lincoln Street entrance to Mt. Tabor Park. Added in 2013, Mt. Tabor Community Garden is one of the newest sites in the Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R) Community Gardens program. On any given afternoon, you can see people tending their plots, chatting at the picnic table, or loading bags of vegetables onto their bikes.

Dara Snyder and Brian Houle
Dara Snyder and Brian Houle

But not all the produce grown in the garden goes to the gardeners themselves. Like many other PP&R gardens, Mt. Tabor is part of the Produce for the People (PFP) program, which provides Portland’s emergency food shelters with organically grown food.

Last year, 38 community garden sites donated 36,545 pounds of produce to 30 different food pantries through the PFP program. Gardeners at Mt. Tabor cultivate a dedicated PFP plot and donate from their own harvests.

“It’s a way for our community within the garden to be tied with the larger community in a significant and meaningful way,” said Mark Keller, garden manager at Mt. Tabor garden.

Mt. Tabor’s PFP donations go to Raphael House, a shelter and advocacy center for families fleeing intimate partner violence.

“It has allowed us to offer families a much wider selection of fresh, healthy produce than we’ve ever had access to in our shelter before,” said Lisa Marshall, communications manager for Raphael House. “Each week, we set up the PFP donation in our Advocacy Center to look like a mini farmer’s market and invited families to come ‘shop’ for their weekly produce needs.”

To help families get comfortable with using the produce, they offer a healthy living support group, community dinners cooked with PFP produce, and a popular Healthy Families Cooking Class for moms and kids.

Raphael House participants can look forward to onions, kale, collards, chard, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and much more thanks to the efforts of volunteers like Brian Houle—who has put in countless hours prepping and planting, and to Portland Nursery, Dean Innovations, and Friends of Portland Community Gardens  for their generous donations of starts and planting materials.

“Kids and families in our community should not have to go hungry. It’s wonderful to be able to participate in a program that can make a difference,” said Houle.

Houle has been joined in the garden by Dara Snyder, Raphael House’s Advocacy Center coordinator, and Alison DeLancey, this year’s Mt. Tabor PFP coordinator.

“There are a lot of hungry people in Portland,” said DeLancey. “Home gardeners with extra produce can always drop it off at Fish Emergency Service, which collects donations without appointments.”



Additional information about the PFP program can be found at


Gardeners grow produce for families in need

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