In an effort to build sustainable infrastructure and feed artists, The Dark Room and Urban Harvest STL have been collaborating to donate pantry items including fresh produce to local families in need.
From radishes and collard greens to oregano and thyme, Sally’s Rooftop Garden — which is located above .ZACK and maintained by Urban Harvest — has produced over 550 pounds of organic produce so far this year, according to Drew Hundelt, Urban Harvest’s Director of Urban Agriculture.
“Urban Harvest strives for building stronger communities around food, so like making every process of food available to the surrounding communities, from growing it to eating it,” Hundelt said.
Food and beverage director for Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Gene Bailey explained that the vegetables and herbs were originally destined for the menu at The Dark Room. However, when the pandemic hit, he started thinking about how the food could still be put to use.
“We wanted to be able to donate it in a way that it would still carry its mission. We intended to sell it at this restaurant that showcases local artists, so we were looking for a way to use it that might still focus on benefiting artist communities. Me and [Executive Director Chris Hansen] went back and forth on it,” Bailey said. “We didn’t want to dictate who it’s for, but we wanted to put it through a channel for a community that was artist-rich.”
By tapping into the Foundation’s network of resources in South City through the Art Place Initiative, Bailey got in touch with Amanda Colón-Smith of Dutchtown South Community Corporation, who then connected him to a local business for distribution.
“Gooseberries, a restaurant in Dutchtown South, has now been doing weekly food pantry donations every Saturday since May to people in that community, which includes a lot of artists, as well as families in need,” Bailey said estimating that about 15 families per week have benefited from the donation bags.
In the earlier months of summer, leafy greens and herbs from Sally’s filled the donation bags. Hundelt said the later summer harvests produce larger crops including tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and corn. After Hundelt and his team gather the food, Bailey divides it among bags consisting of hand sanitizer from local brewing company, 4 Hands, and pantry staples such as crackers, peanut butter from Performance Food Group.
“We plan on continuing this project … It’s something I want to make sure that we can carry on,” Bailey said. “It’s been good to tangibly do something with those resources.”