Most gardens grow only fruits and vegetables. The Garden of Eatin' adds an abundant harvest of love, compassion, and sharing. The Garden's origins go back to when Marshall Levit of Houston, Texas, was 14 years old and seeking an Eagle Scout project. He looked at the large parcel of land next to his synagogue, and where others saw only a vacant lot filled with weeds Levit imagined a lush, organic garden whose yield would feed the poor, hungry, and homeless.

Undaunted by the fact that he knew nothing about gardening, and undeterred by the scope of the task, Levit persuaded the synagogue to donate the land. This involved "a 14-year-old taking seriously his religion's dictum to feed the hungry, and insisting that his synagogue take it seriously," says the director of a community garden network in Houston. Levit reports that "Adults mostly did not embrace this issue or support it. There were doubts and skepticism. But I had a vision of what could happen."

Levit solicited donations of expertise, money, seeds, tools, and labor from the community. His vision and enthusiasm persuaded dozens of volunteers to help him create five 40' x 5' growing beds on the vacant lot. Levit pressed particularly hard to get volunteers from his synagogue to join him in planting, weeding, and watering under the hot Texas sun. The fresh organic vegetables they grew went to the food pantry at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Houston.

The first harvest was only the beginning. Levit kept the garden productive throughout his high school years, working there at least two days a week. Before he left for college, Levit organized volunteers to provide leadership in his absence. During summer breaks, he still works in the garden that he started as a teenager.

For over eight years, the garden has meant more than simply having additional items available at the food pantry. Food banks--and the poor they serve--typically cannot afford fresh produce. One family wrote to the garden's volunteers, "May God bless you for your generosity toward the needy of this parish." Marshall Levit says, "We're giving not just food, but time and love."

Visit The Garden of Eatin'.

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