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Project Grow Program Supports Local Food Banks with Fresh Produce Donations

As of the beginning of September, Project Grow, Allies’ horticultural therapy program for people with developmental disabilities and special needs, donated 702 pounds of delicious produce to the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank in Ewing Township in 2021. Project Grow is one of the only donors who offers fresh produce to local food banks.

MaryAnne McMillan, HTR, a registered horticultural therapist who has been with Allies for 12 years, said, “In addition to providing therapy and education through horticulture, Project Grow aims to give back to local communities by donating their harvests to food banks during the year. It’s a win-win for all!”

The harvest was grown in the gardens behind Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) greenhouses and included tomatoes, various types of peppers, eggplant, onions, and more. At this time, 98% of the produce grown at the college is being given to Mercer Street Friends, who provide a range of integrated services that build community, nurture self-worth and independence, and offer resources for children, families, and communities to overcome poverty and its lasting effects.

James Allen, Food Bank Director for the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, remarked, “Allies has been an outstanding and generous partner to Mercer Street Friends. Through the Project Grow program, they have provided our neighbors with wholesome food, grown locally, adding to the strong sense of community in Trenton. We are grateful to Allies for their commitment to those in need and for their exceptional work in fulfilling their mission.”

In addition to gardens at MCCC, Project Grow has gardens at Duke Farms Community Garden in Hillsborough, as well as accessible raised garden beds outside Allies’ day programs including Mercer Day Program in Hamilton, Flemington Day Program in Flemington, and Mt. Holly Day Center in Mt. Holly. These raised beds allow individuals of various abilities, including those using wheelchairs, to participate in the program and experience the joys of gardening.

Produce from the Flemington Day Program and Duke Farms Community Garden is being donated to various food banks throughout Somerset and Hunterdon counties. MaryAnne shared, “Last year Project Grow donated close to 600 pounds of produce to food banks and those served by Allies. We plan to continue spreading the wealth the gardens have to offer, with a goal of reaching 1,000 pounds of fresh produce donations this year. As of August, we’ve donated 787 pounds – we are well on our way to our goal!”

Allies is deeply appreciative of the grants from Bristol Myers Squibb, Janssen and the National Garden Bureau that help make the program possible, as well as the interns and dedicated staff of horticultural therapists who plant and maintain the gardens. Together they bring the gardens to life!

For more information about Project Grow, or helping to sponsor the program, please email MaryAnne McMillan, HTR, at mmcmillan@alliesnj.org.

To learn more about Mercer Street Friends visit mercerstreetfriends.org

A portion of Project Grow’s produce donation to the Mercer Street Friends Food Bank.

Allies, Inc. is a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing housing, healthcare, meaningful employment and recreational activities to people with special needs in the communities of their choice. To learn more, visit www.alliesnj.org.

“A world where limitation does not distinguish nor define.”

Contact: Nicole Zamerovsky, Director of Communications, Allies, Inc.
Cell: 609-508-6181
Email: nzamerovsky@alliesnj.org

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