WWOOFing Part 14: Visit to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank

The Chattanooga Area Food Bank distributes food directly to local residents but acts primarily as a regional distributor that supplies agencies in 20 counties in Tennessee and northern Georgia. For comparison purposes, the Grundy County Food Bank (for which the community garden is maintained) distributes food to 550 families a month while the Chattanooga Food Bank feeds 20,000 people per week. This equates to 8 million pounds of food a year. As a regional distributor, the Chattanooga Food Bank supplies the Grundy County Food Bank with USDA allotments and provides opportunities to purchase their choice of very low cost food in bulk. Jonathan and I had the opportunity to visit the distribution center last week with Sandy, the director of the Grundy County Food Bank, and had the opportunity to see the massive warehouse filled with boxed and canned goods and the house-sized coolers and freezers.

Warehouse at the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Warehouse at the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Warehouse at the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Warehouse at the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

I hope to return to the Chattanooga Food Bank to learn more about their operations but that afternoon was spent quickly touring their educational garden and sorting through the seeds that we were there to pick up. Their garden is a self-described teaching garden that grows food directly for distribution but primarily serves to illustrate different methods of growing plants and employing conservation techniques.

Teaching Garden, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Teaching Garden, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

The garden uses irrigated raised beds for most of their plants which allows them to retain water and easily convert them into hoop houses as needed. They also have other types of demonstration methods such as gutter gardens, which are ideal for apartment balconies, a greenhouse, and herb spirals, which retain both water and heat. To conserve water, the entire garden plot is situated in a depression to maximize runoff from nearby areas and each of the roofs is fitted with gutters and a barrel for rain collection. In addition they have a cistern that irrigates the raised beds on a timer.

Greenhouse, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Greenhouse, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Herb spiral at the teaching garden, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Herb spiral at the teaching garden, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Garden shed fitted with rain barrel on the right side, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Garden shed fitted with rain barrel on the right side, Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

I am really looking forward to a return visit where I can learn about their educational and outreach programs as well as get more information on their gardens but this trip was successful in terms of getting seed to plant at the community garden. The Chattanooga Food Bank was incredibly generous, literally allowing us to take as much seed as we wanted. I’m excited to already be planting some of it!

Windfall! Sorting seeds from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Windfall! Sorting seeds from the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Chattanooga, Tennessee