176,360 residents of Allegheny County, one in seven, are food insecure, meaning they are often forced to skip meals, eat less at meals, buy cheap non-nutritious food and/or feed their children but not themselves. Of those, over 45,070 are children under the age of 18. That’s nearly 19% of kids living in our county!*
At North Hills Community Outreach, we serve over 1,500 families per year with our three food pantries, averaging about 500 families per month. We strive to provide the best food we can to our clients. Quality food is often expensive, and so the ability to provide low-income families the opportunity to eat well is the driving force behind the hard work that is poured into the Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Memorial Garden. By providing fresh highly nutritious food, we hope to reduce levels of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and also give our clients a normal food shopping experience at some of the most difficult times in their lives.The garden is just one of the many programs that NHCO offers to help move people from poverty to self-sufficiency.
In response to the high rates of food insecurity in the North Hills and the need for more fresh fruits and vegetables, we celebrated our first growing season in 2011 and grew more than 3,000 pounds of food with the help of more than 150 volunteers. In 2012, we expanded the garden to help even more families and create a place to connect more community members with our beautiful garden. We planted 23 fruit trees donated by the Fruit Tree Planting Foundation. The garden produced 3,500 pounds of food. A high tunnel extends the growing season of a number of cold-weather vegetables including spinach, kale and other greens
In 2013, a strawberry patch was added and a Children’s Rainbow Garden was installed, where children can plant, raise and harvest kid-friendly crops with adult supervision. In 2014, volunteer beekeepers installed and maintain an apiary so that honeybees, which are a vital component of organic gardening, can easily pollinate our crops.
The garden has large compost bins, an information kiosk, a rain garden, geocache, and a bioswale and regularly hosts educational workshops for the community.