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Reflections of the Season

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Reflections of the Season

The winter months offer space to reflect on the past garden season, as we diligently plan for the season to come. We take great pride in the many successes from 2023, our twelfth season serving individuals and communities facing food insecurity. In collaboration with community members, volunteers, donors, and sponsors who rallied behind our vision of a more food secure future, here are some of the results accomplished last season:

  • 92 families, which includes over 300 individuals, received household garden beds and the resources and support to grow their own produce
  • Countless others were served at five community group and food pantry locations, with garden bed systems to grow together and help meet the high demand for fresh produce
  • 3,240 vegetable seedlings planted between spring and fall
  • Over 140 garden beds planted in 20 locations throughout the suburbs, providing the capacity to grow over 12,800 pounds of produce  
  • Over 750 pounds of produce grown and donated to food access organizations from The GardenWorks Project Community Gardens at the DuPage County Fairgrounds

    Food insecurity is a complex issue that no organization can address alone. That’s why our community-based model works in collaboration with organizations and community members throughout the region. Partnering with organizations like Bridge Communities, Mercy Housing, Metropolitan Family Services, as well as schools, faith communities and civic groups, we expand our reach and foster a long-term solution to fighting hunger in the region. 

    Projects for the 2023 season included 19 garden beds across four properties of Bridge Communities, which supports families facing homelessness. This partnership supported almost 1,600 healthy meals for Bridge families this season alone and helped lay the foundation for future successes and self-sufficiency. “Food is a basic need,” said Megan DeAngelis, Bridge’s manager of family wellness. “Knowing how to grow your own food will, down the road, provide a foundation for sustainability so families can rely less on a grocery store.” 

    At Educare School, an early childhood school in West Chicago, GardenWorks guided students and staff to grow in 4×8 garden beds, round “pizza” shaped garden beds, and canvas grow bags. The young gardeners harvested and proudly displayed their vegetables at their own Farmers market stall, where families could “shop” and take fresh food home. The gardens provided, not only access to healthier foods, but a fun and rewarding learning experience. Families also had access to their own garden bed at our community gardens located at First United Methodist Church.

    Last year marked our first season at Ronald Mcdonald House® near Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. Three food growing garden beds helped Ronald McDonald House serve families with better fresh produce access, healthy nutrition options, and therapeutic and recreational opportunities. Having the garden at the House has been a missing piece we never knew we needed!” says Samantha Schmidt, Manager of Family Services at Ronald McDonald House near CDH. “It is a tranquil space for families to visit, a healthy addition to our snack selection, and a fun opportunity for our Meals from the Heart volunteers.”.  Families and staff enjoyed healthy treats such as blueberry basil lemonade, pizzas on a stick, and cucumber butterflies. 

    Partnerships with food access organizations across the suburbs, such as Downers Grove FISH Pantry, The Outreach House food pantry, and College of DuPage Fuel Pantry, provide a direct, sustainable solution to meeting the high demand for fresh produce. At Downers Grove FISH Pantry, an 8-bed GardenWorks system grew produce requested specifically by FISH clients and was harvested and distributed fresh, same-day.

    In our second year headquartered at the DuPage County Fairgrounds, our own GardenWorks Project Community Garden expanded our capacity to grow vegetables for our community. Bountiful fresh produce deliveries were made weekly to local food pantries, totaling over 750 pounds, adding more freshness, nutrients, and variety for people accessing grocery assistance at food access organizations across the suburbs. We also diverted hundreds of pounds of excess produce from local farmers and farmers markets to food pantries, and facilitated fresh produce donations from backyard gardens via the Fresh Food Connect app. These efforts reduce food waste and redirect fresh produce to help local food pantries, who consistently report fresh produce as the #1 requested item, and the most difficult to obtain.

    The GardenWorks Project is proud to support our local food system and food growing practices that steward the health of our community and our environment. We are thankful for our community in helping us plant the seed for a more sustainable, food secure future, and we look forward to a fruitful 2024 season.


    To get involved with GardenWorks:

    To learn about volunteer, sponsorship, and educational opportunities, or to make a donation to strengthen food security and access in your community, visit or email us at Follow us on social media or register for our monthly email newsletter to stay current on local events and activities.

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