Meghan Charest, 17, of Falmouth, Maine, a junior at Falmouth High School, provides people in need in her community with fresh, organic produce through her community garden, which yields about 500 pounds of food per year for the Falmouth Food Pantry. Meghan was inspired to start her garden after volunteering at the food pantry and seeing how little fresh produce was available. "I wanted to find a sustainable, effective way to provide healthier foods for the people using the food pantry," she said.
After gaining the approval of food pantry coordinators, Meghan researched which crops have high yields. She then found several people willing to donate space for a garden; secured a grant to buy gardening equipment; and spoke at schools, Girl Scout meetings and clubs to recruit volunteers. She and her team went to work planting, watering, weeding, harvesting produce and making weekly deliveries to the food pantry. After a while, Meghan enlisted the help of a master gardener who taught her more about growing healthy food. She moved her operation to a larger garden, and began using social media to recruit more volunteers. She also began raising money to maintain the garden by setting up fundraising tables at garden centers. Today, Meghan's garden is the primary source of fresh produce for the food pantry, which serves about 900 people in her community. "Through organizing, coordinating and working in the garden, I have been fortunate to realize the power, strength and grace that come with helping others," said Meghan.