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Garden beds in Naperville will help fight food insecurity

Written by Marie Wilson

Read Article on the Daily Herald

Chicago artist Sam Kirk painted a raised garden bed for the Obama Legacy Initiative, which plans to auction it as part of a new initiative to benefit food pantries. (Courtesy of Andrew Tyler/Tylerman Films LLC)

A project to model small-scale gardening as a way to boost healthy food availability is under way at the Naperville garden plots. Volunteers with the nonprofit Obama Legacy Initiative are growing vegetables in seven raised garden beds that have been painted by artists for auction.

They're also growing in 20 more raised beds, with the veggies and the structures set to be donated to food pantries to help clients in need.

Through the Victory Over Hunger Garden Bed Initiative, the grass-roots organization aims to fight food insecurity on a handful of fronts, said Sean Tenner, chairman of the Obama Legacy Initiative board.

The produce grown in the beds this summer can help feed food pantry users with fresh nutrition. Auctioning the seven decorated beds will raise money to benefit the Obama Legacy Initiative's work to address food shortages and provide education in honor of former President Barack and first lady Michelle Obama. Giving the other garden beds to pantry clients can help them learn to grow healthy food on their own. And, modeling the donation of homegrown produce can encourage local gardeners to chip in.

Supporters of the Obama Legacy Initiative are auctioning seven painted garden beds to benefit the organization's efforts to address food insecurity. (Courtesy of Andrew Tyler/Tylerman Films LLC)

"If I'm a gardener at all different skill levels, I can help the community, help address food insecurity, by doing something that I already enjoy doing," Tenner said.

Chicago artist Sam Kirk painted one of the beds into a piece she said is about "the joy of achieving small victories." The wood-paneled structure features a scene of people planting their own food.

Kirk, who grew up on the south side of Chicago, said she was motivated to get involved because she's seen the effects of "food deserts," where healthy food sources are far away.

"Being able to not only give people the knowledge, but also to provide them with the garden beds to actually be able to sustain themselves and to grow food themselves, is really valuable," Kirk said.

Registered dietitian Sara Hasler got on board because of the project's educational elements. Hasler said working to address food insecurity involves more than making healthy food available.

"This kind of food takes time, and it takes skill," Hasler said. "The idea of getting people involved in growing it is much more active. This is a really good way of changing habits and providing better nutrition and providing a skill set that sometimes is absent."

Several raised garden beds now on display at a garden plot in Naperville have been painted in a project by the Obama Legacy Initiative to support food pantries. (Courtesy of Andrew Tyler/Tylerman Films LLC)

The Obama Legacy Initiative is accepting bids online for the garden beds up for auction, which are painted by Kirk and Jennifer Rizzo, Margaret Bucholz, Nancy Turner, Geeta Rao, Rich Lo, Jeff Renaud, Thomas Banks and Drushya Musham.

Market value for each is estimated at $500. To bid, visit

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