By Laura McAlister
The Bruno Vegetable Garden at Birmingham Botanical Gardens is for more than just viewing. For more than a decade, it’s helped feed some of the Birmingham area’s hungriest people thanks to Magic City Harvest.
The Bruno Garden covers about a quarter of an acre and produces some 3,000 pounds of vegetables each year for Magic City Harvest, said BBG Executive Director Fred Spicer. From greens to beans and tomatoes and broccoli, the garden yields fresh vegetables year round, and Magic City Harvest distributes them to those in need in Jefferson, Shelby and Talladega counties.
“The Birmingham Botanical Gardens has been a longstanding and great partner for us,” said Paulette Van Matre, executive director of Magic City Harvest. “They were really one of the first to say, let’s grow for others, and I love the fact that they have this garden that certainly they could do other things with, but instead they donate to help feed the needy.”
Paulette is the featured speaker at The Gardens’ 47th annual Member Celebration scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Jan. 19 at the BBG Garden Center.
Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served, and members will learn about The Gardens’ partnership with Magic City Harvest and get an update from Fred on the state of The Gardens.
Magic City Harvest is a food recovery program that focuses primarily on donations and distribution of perishable food to the area’s neediest. It strives not just to recover food that would otherwise be thrown away but to also give those in poverty healthy and nutritious options.
The fresh foods are delivered in refrigerated trucks to organizations in the Birmingham area serving the needy. The service is free. In one year, about 1.4 million pounds of food are delivered in the area, Paulette said.
Fred said the partnership with Magic City Harvest allows the Bruno Garden to have a double purpose. It serves the BBG’s educational mission and helps give back to the community.
“We didn’t want to sell these vegetables or just compost them,” he said. “It also seemed a bit disingenuous to just give them to our employees. Giving them to Birmingham’s hungriest people seemed like the right thing to do.”
Paulette said she wanted to update BBG members and others on the great need in the Birmingham area. An estimated one in four children in Alabama live in poverty, she said, and about 100,000 people in Birmingham have been identified as “food insecure,” meaning they don’t know from where their next meal will come.
Fred said as part of the BBG’s master plan, the Bruno Garden will be expanded in the future to produce even more fresh options for the needy.
“Our future plans really call for this garden to increase by about 300 percent,” he said. “We also want to incorporate small fruits like pomegranates, blueberries and figs. These are all things people can grow at home.
“It really shows you how you can go a long way in feeding a lot of people.”
BBG 47th Annual Member Celebration
When: Jan. 19 from 5:30-6:30 cocktail and hors d’oeuvres; 6:30-7:30 p.m. members meeting
Where: BBG Garden Center
Information: The Member Celebration is for BBG members. Tickets are $20. An RSVP is requested by Jan. 13; call 414-2965 or register at www.bbgardens.org.