Employee Gardens: Win-Win

This editorial ran in The Oklahoman on July 3rd.

The support of our corporate sponsors in Oklahoma is great, and because of that support we are able to continue our mission of “Fighting Hunger…Feeding Hope.”

One of our most ardent supporters, Chesapeake Energy, has found yet another way to help nonprofits such as ours, while engaging their employees and impacting the community.  The Chesapeake Employee Garden is an idea we hope will be adopted and replicated by companies of all sizes throughout the state.

Simply put, it’s a garden established by Chesapeake and grown, harvested and enjoyed by members of Chesapeake’s Green Thumb Club. All excess produce will be distributed to organizations such as the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

Specifically, Chesapeake has set up a “sustainable” garden on a full city block between Shartel and Lee Avenues and NW 62nd and 61st streets, featuring raised bed plots reserved for planting and harvesting a variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers.

The Green Thumb Club has 56 teams of Chesapeake employees who work individual plots and five common beds for shared crops of cane berries, strawberries, asparagus, cut flowers and herbs.

Throughout the garden, a “sustainable approach,” is employed, encouraging focus on the health and vitality of the soil while providing plants with the optimum condition for growth, and increasing resistance to pests and diseases. All participants have attended a ‘Basics of Sustainable Gardening’ course.

Chesapeake’s Green Thumb Club is comprised of all skill levels of gardeners and allows employees and their families to hone their gardening techniques in a fun and enjoyable community setting. Garden participants will be provided educational classes, resources and guidance throughout the seasons.

We encourage organizations of all sizes to follow Chesapeake’s lead and institute their own employee garden. You don’t need an entire city block or hundreds of employees to have a productive and beautiful garden.  The benefits for your company and employees include: improving the quality of life for garden participants; stimulating social interaction; encouraging self-reliance; producing nutritious food for employee families and for local nonprofit organizations; reducing family food costs; conserving resources; creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education; promoting green initiatives and adding a unique and visually appealing aspect to your company setting.

The employee garden is a win for your company, a win for your employees and a win for the community. As we salute Chesapeake Energy for establishing an employee garden, we look forward to doing the same with others as employee gardens spring up throughout the state.

For more information on starting a community garden in the workplace, visit our Urban Harvest page or contact Bruce Edwards at bedwards@regionalfoodbank.org or 405-604-7108.

Rodney Bivens

Rodney Bivens

Rodney Bivens is the Executive Director of the Regional Food Bank. He founded the organization in 1980.
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In response to a call for donations by the 2010 Oklahoma Speaker’s Ball, Tyson Foods delivered more than 31,000 pounds of much-needed protein to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma today. The donation will provide 23,875 meals to the hungry in 53 central and western counties.

Since 2000, Tyson Foods has been a leader in the fight against hunger. The company is actively engaged in food-donation events and fund-raising activities to benefit those in need. The protein given by Tyson today brings the company’s total in-kind donations since 2000 to more than 75 million pounds. This milestone equates to more than 296 million meals donated to food banks and agencies serving local communities around the country. Last year alone, Tyson donated nearly eight million pounds of protein to Feeding America. For more information on Tyson’s fight against hunger, visit hungerrelief.tyson.com/.

This morning, the Food Bank’s Executive Director Rodney Bivens, Tyson Foods representative John Ward, and Oklahoma Speaker of the House Chris Benge came together for the arrival of Tyson truck.

Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright is the Marketing Coordinator at the Regional Food Bank. Natalie manages social media for the organization. Connect with her on Twitter (@rfbo) and Facebook!
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Volunteer Center at the Regional Food Bank

Rodney Bivens

We had a dedication ceremony and open house of our new Volunteer Center at the Food Bank a couple of weeks ago, it was kind of strange to stop and look back to where we started and where we are today.

In some ways it’s like a dream and in other ways it’s like it was just yesterday. Thirty years ago, we were picking up food from the back of Safeway grocery stores in a blue half-ton pickup. It was me and two Vista volunteers – there were many nights that we slept at the food bank so we’d be there to meet a truck in the middle of the night because the freight was free, and “free” was something we looked for a lot in those early days! We used to rent U-Hall trucks and drive to Dallas to pick up food that we’d distribute the next day.

Those were long hours and hard work, but also extremely fulfilling because we knew we were making a difference in someone’s life. And you might think that, thirty years later, some of that feeling and some of that driving passion for helping people might have faded, but the truth is – we feel it even more strongly today.

We’re delivering food to every corner of our 53 county service area in central and western Oklahoma and will likely distribute close to 3 million pounds each and every month this year. We’ll provide a safe haven for some 850 low-income children after school and we’ll provide backpacks of food to 9,000 chronically hungry elementary children this year. We’ll provide food to families who are struggling to make ends meet and we’ll deliver fresh produce and supplemental food to seniors in our state. With the new volunteer center, our 15,000+ volunteers will finally have a great workspace to package even more family boxes and Food 4 Kids boxes as the demand continues to grow.

It’s been a fun, interesting, humbling and challenging journey we have found ourselves on. Through our simple act of kindness – through our simple act of providing food, we have changed lives – we have provided hope. I thank each and every one of our donors, our volunteers, our corporate partners, our board members and our staff for being a part of our past, our present and our future.

It is my honor and privilege to serve you and it is a job that is not complete. We have the ability and the determination to make sure that no child, no senior, no family ever again goes without food in Oklahoma – to do less is unthinkable.

- Rodney Bivens, Executive Director

Rodney Bivens

Rodney Bivens

Rodney Bivens is the Executive Director of the Regional Food Bank. He founded the organization in 1980.
Read more articles by Rodney