Run of the mill grass at the East Portland Community Center has been transformed into the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO)'s Intergenerational Garden, producing healthy food.

In Portland, we're proud of our food. We love it, we cultivate it, we cook it up creatively and pretend not to care when we get fawning attention from fancy foodie magazines and national newspapers. But in a foodie town like Portland, with so much to feast on, we might forget that not all of us get to enjoy that wonderful food. The feast isn’t equally available to all; many Portlanders don’t have enough to eat, let alone the best and freshest local cheese or chocolate or coffee.  The problem of “food insecurity” is far from being solved.

National Food Day, October 24, is a chance to take note of the problem. It’s also an excuse to recognize and celebrate ways in which people are trying to solve the problem with efforts to create a healthy, affordable and sustainable food system for everyone, not just for the admittedly food-obsessed gourmets among us who seek out the freshest truffles (foraged or chocolate), the creamiest salted caramel ice cream or the most exotic finishing salt.

The food insecurity problem must be addressed in a wide variety of ways, of course, but one way is seed by seed, garden by garden. That’s been the philosophy behind the 1000 Gardens Initiative, one of the efforts that Food Day Oregon is celebrating this week. Over the past three and a half years, the City of Portland's 1000 Gardens program has, with the help of hundreds of partners, succeeded in planting who knows how many new seeds. How many seeds can you plant in 1800 new garden plots? That’s how many gardens the City has sponsored over the past 3 ½ years since taking on the 1000 gardens challenge. On land belonging to schools, churches, private citizens and public entities, concrete has been transformed into crops, dirt turned into soil suitable for seeds. 

Part of the fall bounty at the Intergenerational Garden.
  • Food Day’s national priorities:
    Promote safer, healthier diets
    Support sustainable and organic farms
    Reduce hunger
    Reform factory farms to protect the environment and animals
    Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers

The Portland City Council will be celebrating the 1000 Gardens program Wednesday October 24, 2012 at 9:30 a.m., in a "time certain" portion of its morning session. The public is invited to participate and hear the stories of the new gardens from the gardeners themselves. Commissioner Nick Fish has been spearheading the city effort (as part of the Portland Parks and Recreation department, which he directs in his role as commissioner), but the vast number of partners have been the key to success. 1800 new garden plots means 1800 new gardeners...!