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Youth Gardens Help Feed Families in Aftermath of Butte Fire

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When I heard that the schools were needing a way to get these veggies to the families, we saw a great opportunity for collaboration, said Marti Crane, Red Cross Volunteer.

So many people and organizations have stepped up these last two in weeks as the Butte Fire burned more than 70,000 acres in Calaveras and Amador Counties, destroying over 500 homes and evacuating thousands from their homes for days on end.

“We wanted to help too,” said Zach Guillemin a Railroad Flat Resident and 8th grader at Toyon Middle school in the garden and landscaping class.

“I know a lot of families up where we live that lost their gardens in the fire, and we thought maybe we could give them some of the vegetables we are growing in our school garden since they aren’t able to grow them anymore,” Guillemin said.

With the wheels set in motion, many organizations stepped up to support the effort. The American Red Cross, The Resource Connection Food Bank, The UCCE Central Sierra, Calaveras Unified School District, Gardens to Grow In, Community Emergency Response Teams, FoodCorps, Calaveras FFA and many community partners all jumped on board to help make this happen.

For the last two weeks all of the vegetables that are being harvested from the Calaveras High School Farm, Toyon Middle School and many of the elementary school gardens have been given directly to those affected by the fire.

“It is has been great to see so many of the students so excited to help, and feel like that are able to do something valuable for this community,” said Lucas Hill, a FoodCorps service member who serves at the Calaveras High School Farm and Gold Strike High School. “Being new to this community, I have been so impressed by the youth and organizations that have mobilized to make this a reality.”

In addition to harvesting the vegetables and getting them distributed to families in need, Hill also helped lead a cooking session in the Valley Springs Elementary School Garden for Oakendell students who had been evacuated to the gym, and held a garden activity day for children and families evacuated to the campgrounds with FoodCorps service member Emily Metzger.

Food harvested from the gardens has been given to the Resource Connection Food Bank and American Red Cross for distribution and given directly to families at the school sites.

“These are the kinds of things that make us all feel so good inside,” said Marti Crane, long time Red Cross Volunteer and Calaveras County resident. “When I heard that the schools were needing a way to get these veggies to the families, we saw a great opportunity for collaboration. The youth in our community are amazing and we are so happy we have been able to help them fulfill their vision of feeding these families with these wonderful vegetables they have put so much time and love into growing.”

In all, over 300 pounds of vegetables grown at the Calaveras High School Farm and school gardens has been given away the last two weeks

“We plan to continue giving away the vegetables we are growing as long as there is a need,” said Guillemin. “It feels good to be able to provide something as foundational as healthy food for those that need it,” he added.