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The H.E.N. Project

Chef Linda Weiss

Hunger- I just got back from working in my yard cutting some shrubs back before the rain comes tonight. I am soaked to the skin and I am tired. But, before I started working in the yard, I had a meeting with two very smart women who have totally put me to shame. In fact, I should not even be talking about how tired I am.

By now you must be wondering how this relates to hunger. No, I am not hungry because this is not about me, but the two women I met earlier today. Two emergency room nurses, Jennifer Schlette and Laura Perdue, who saw too many people come into the ER hungry. Yes, just to get a meal. And, then there are the children who come there ill but their parents must choose between medicine and food because they can’t afford both. Which one would you choose if you were in their situation? I will bet that while you are in the ER waiting to see a doctor about a broken bone or a cut finger that you would never think that the person beside you might be there because they need to eat.

Jennifer Schlette, a Master Gardener, and Laura Perdue are brilliant and tireless. Brilliant because they saw a need and put together a plan called H.E.N., short for Hunger Ends Now, and tireless because after working 60 hours a week in the hospital emergency room, they plant and maintain a three acre garden, and distribute the food to those in need. This past year they fed nearly 5000 people with almost 3000 pounds of food.

Jennifer and Laura do most of the work themselves on the city owned property in Moncks Corner, South Carolina. They use a lot of their own money to buy seeds and plants because nothing is sold from the garden. All the food is given away to anyone who needs it. They have raised money by having classes on composting or cooking during the weeks in the spring and summer when the garden is at its peak. The water bill was $400.00 per month last year and it had to be paid even if out of pocket.

The H.E.N. program is also benefiting local schools by a partnership where the schoolchildren grow seedlings for their own school garden, and learn to recognize and cook a variety of different vegetables in the schools junior chef programs.

Jennifer and Laura grew local favorites in their garden last year such as collards, squash, beans, tomatoes, and other vegetables and fruits. These women have also helped others start their own gardens, where the food that is planted is the food the gardener likes and will eat.

At our meeting today, we talked about food memories: How much they mean to us, especially here in the South where everything we do is based on what our next meal will be, or a special memory of a past meal. The women told me about going to a home where the children are placed through child protective services and how much planting their garden brought out the memories of grandmothers and families where they now have none. One quote was from a small child there who said that his grandmother made the best cantaloupe in the world. So, Jennifer and Laura planted cantaloupe in the garden. I think this may be the best example I know of food memories helping to heal a heart.

Jennifer Schlette and Laura Perdue at inonebasket@henproject.org

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