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Community Partners Help Kick-Start City Victory Gardens with Plant Giveaway

By Berks History Center

May 08, 2020

Reading, Pa. — On Monday, May 11, 2020, the Berks History Center will be one of two locations giving away free victory garden kits to community members in the city of Reading. Funded by the Friends of Reading Hospital, the Berks History Center plans to give away 250 Victory Garden “KickStart Kits” to registered residents at the Berks History Center campus.

Two pick-up methods will be available to ensure safe social distancing: Walk-up registrations will be distributed at the BHC museum (940 Center Ave.) at the corner of Spring and 2nd Streets, and a drive-through pick-ups will be available the same day in the BHC parking lot, located at 160 Spring Street.

In order to maintain safe social distancing, registration for pick-up is required. The garden kits include several vegetable plants and bilingual information from the Berks History Center on the history of victory gardening as well as practical information about growing food for their community partners. Soil will be available on site (self-serve). Residents are welcome to bring their own containers to take soil with them at the time of pick-up. Kits are reserved on a first come, first served basis. To reserve a free victory garden kit, visit: berkshistory.org/free-plants/

The “Berks History for Victory” initiative has grown in collaboration with Reading’s Victory Garden Task Force and a growing number of community partnerships. The task force’s “Cultivating Community” victory garden project, led by Councilwoman, Lucine Sihelnik, will distribute complete container gardens to District 1 on Monday, May 11, 2020, the same day as the “Berks History for Victory” kick-start kit giveaway. : #CultivatingCommunity container gardens are available in District 1 through the City of Reading. Call 877-727-3234 or use the city’s I-request app.

The Berks History Center has also partnered with the Reading Public Library to increase accessibility to information about home food production and the history of victory gardening in America. Through its Overdrive platform, the Reading Public Library has compiled a unique selection of digital books that can be accessed online by digital library card holders: https://bit.ly/BH4VGardenBooks To request a digital library card visit https://bit.ly/GetCardedToday 

Muhlenberg Greene Architects, Ltd. (MGA) have also joined the movement to promote historic victory gardening for food security in Berks County. On their 100th Anniversary this year, MGA’s experienced architects will be putting together a set of plans for raised garden bed planters, which they will distribute to the public along with a series of “throwback” social media posts, sharing historic garden designs from some of the community’s most popular built residences built by MGA.

Other partnerships in the county-wide victory gardening initiative include: the City of Reading, DS Smith, Reading’s Environmental Advisory Council, Berks Nature, the Berks Conservation District, Penn State Cooperative Extension and the Berks County Master Gardeners.

Home gardeners and institutions alike are welcome to join the movement by sharing resources and stories on the “Berks Victory Gardener” Facebook page and follow along on Instagram @BerksVictoryGardens Further collaborations are expected to grow, as the Berks Victory Gardeners invite all citizens, community organizations, and businesses to get behind the revitalization of historic home food gardening.    First promoted during WWI and again during WWII, Americans were encouraged to support the war effort and produce their own food by planting vegetable gardens in their backyards, churchyards, city parks, and playgrounds. Today, the BHC is seeking to revitalize this historic practice in order to build community and increase food security in Berks County.

The BHC invites families in Reading and Berks County to join them in their campaign to promote food security during the COVID-19 pandemic by learning about the history of victory gardens and growing their own gardens at home, wherever possible. 

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