More than 1,000 people pass through the doors of the Harker Heights Food Care Center every month to get groceries to stock their bare pantries.

The center is operated solely by donations, but the growing number of hungry residents takes a toll on the nonprofit organization’s efforts, said Linda Dawson, executive director.

That’s why Harker Heights Parks and Recreation launched the Harvest Heights project to grow fresh produce for the food bank.

“The goal is to provide fresh food for those that maybe can’t go out and buy that produce,” said Heather Cox, parks and recreation activities coordinator. “If we can provide these things to them for free, then hopefully they can get that needed nutrition that you can’t find in things from canned food and dried goods.”

Food care center clients typically receive food products designed to fill stomachs, Dawson said, admitting that most of those food items lack nutrition. So she looks forward to the healthier Harvest Heights donations.

“It’s healthy food, which we don’t get a lot of, and good fresh produce would be a good blessing,” she said.

Harvest Heights is made up of four plots in the community garden in Carl Levin Park. The Heights Children’s Garden Club planted green onions, corn, peppers and tomatoes in March but was not able to make a long-term commitment to the project. Cox now needs volunteers to help tend the gardens.

“We are looking for volunteers that can donate four hours a week to come out here and water the plants, prune them and help with the crops,” she said, adding that the parks and recreation department provides training and tools to volunteer gardeners.

In the meantime, people who have leased plots in the community garden for their own gardening projects have picked up the slack.

“They help get the job done,” said Sarah Mylcraine, activities specialist, who runs the “Adopt a Neighbor’s Plot” program in the community garden.

Volunteers are needed to check on and care for the plants four times a week.

“We are just glad if they want to come help and want to garden, because the benefits are endless,” Mylcraine said.

To volunteer for Harvest Heights, call (254) 953-5493.

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