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Kansas City Community Gardens kicks off 'Tomato Day' to reduce food insecurity

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Posted at 6:26 PM, Apr 25, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo — A local nonprofit is working to reduce food insecurity and remove barriers to fresh food.

In partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City, the Kansas City Community Gardens kicked off its annual, three-day “Tomato Days” event.

The first day of the sale, April 25, is reserved for low-income members, with plants available for all members starting Friday, April 26.

The sale is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

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Over a thousand low-income residents showed up Thursday morning for the first day of sales.

They waited in long lines to pick out seedlings for warm season produce and herbs at a low cost.

Plants for sale include 18 varieties of tomatoes, 14 varieties of peppers, eggplant and herbs including basil, parsley, sorrel, rosemary, and summer savory, all grown in KCCG’s on site greenhouses.

Annually, KCCG provides nearly 60,000 seed packets and 180,000 greenhouse-grown seedlings to its members.

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“I think it benefits a lot, cause we do have a lot of food deserts in the area," said Arthur Moss, a community member.

Meghan Spalding came to the garden with her aging father.

She says equipping low-income families and elders to grow their own food is a huge money saver, especially during inflation.

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“I mean you’re not able to get plants this quality, at this cost, anywhere else,” Spalding said.

That is why for the last several months, volunteers and staff here have been planting over 40,000 seeds by hand and growing them in this greenhouse to sell at low cost.

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“We saw such a hike in food prices, and recently in Kansas City, we’ve seen a hike in rent prices," said Jennifer Meyer, executive director of Kansas City Community Gardens. "When you’re in a tight budget, food is the thing that has to flex."

Odalis Hernandez, a community health epidemiologist at Blue KC, explained what is at stake long-term if nutrition is not met.

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“For underserved communities, convenience food that aren’t super nutritious can lead to malnourishment if it’s done over a long time,” Hernandez said. “That has a lot of ties to chronic diseases, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease.”

Right now in the KC region, one in eight children suffer from food insecurity. It is a statistic Spalding is more concerned about now with two young children.

“I’m definitely more aware of making sure that there’s fresh things involved with what I’m cooking,” Spalding said.

Plants will continue to be available for purchase at the KCCG office after the sale for several weeks until supplies run out.

Office hours are 9-5 Monday through Friday, with extended hours on Tuesday evening until 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to noon.