Giveaway helps folks grow their own vegetables

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More than 22,000 seeds and tomato and pepper seedlings are being distributed this summer in a partnership that began with Grow Pittsburgh in 2011.

The Great Garden Giveaway kicked off Tuesday afternoon at Pittsburgh Langley High School in Sheraden, where 400 regular clients of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank's Produce to People program snaked around the building to collect their produce. The plants and seed packets were an added attraction for many.

"I got 48 tomatoes from the plant I got last year," said Albert Santavicca of the West End.

The Great Garden Giveaway got a boost when Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner and her staff offered to help to get more vegetable seeds to clients this year. Ms. Wagner said she had staffers from "every division of my office, who worked during their lunch and free time and even took materials home" to package seeds.

The staff also raised more than $600, she said.

Attorneys from the firm Leech Tishman joined the partnership, raising $8,500 from in-house donations, events and raffles.

"Now we have money to purchase seedlings so we can support local growers instead of asking them for donations," said Julie Pezzino, executive director of Grow Pittsburgh. "We are supporting six local growers, and we also have gotten quite a few sponsors."

When a local grower called her office in 2011 offering extra seedlings, she said, "we had already planted our gardens but we didn't want to miss the opportunity."

Grow Pittsburgh put out the word among the gardeners they work with in Braddock and Larimer "and we gave them all away."

The fundraising will enable more outreach and organization to ensure that fewer families have to worry about where their food will come from, said Jeralyn Beach, produce coordinator for the food bank.

The Produce to People program supports between 400 and 800 households at each site, Ms. Beach said.

Diana Nelson Jones: or 412-263-1626.

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