Garden of eatin-scouting projectMarshall Levit of Houston, Texas, was 14 years old and seeking an Eagle Scout project. He looked at the large parcel of land next to his synagogue. Where others saw only a vacant lot filled with weeds, Levit imagined a lush, organic garden whose yield would feed the poor, hungry, and homeless.

Undaunted by the fact that he knew nothing about gardening, and undeterred by the scope of the task, Levit persuaded the synagogue to donate the land. This 14-year-old took seriously his religion’s dictum to feed the hungry, and he insisted that his synagogue take it seriously. Levit reports that, “Adults did not embrace this issue or support it. There were doubts and skepticism. But I had a vision of what could happen.”

Levit solicited donations of expertise, money, seeds, tools, and labor from the community. His vision and enthusiasm persuaded dozens of volunteers to help him create five 40’ x 5’ beds on the vacant lot, which he dubbed ‘The Garden of Eatin.’ Levit pressed particularly hard to get volunteers from his synagogue to join him in planting, weeding, and watering under the hot Texas sun. Levit kept the garden productive throughout his high school years, working there at least two days a week.

Before he left for college, he organized volunteers to provide leadership in his absence. During summer breaks, he still works in the garden that he started as a teenager. His work has generated thousands of servings of organic produce each year delivered to the food pantry at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Houston.

For over eight years, the garden has meant more than simply having additional items available at the food pantry. Food banks—and the poor they serve—typically cannot afford fresh produce. One family wrote to the garden’s volunteers, “May God bless you for your generosity toward the needy of this parish.” Marshall Levit says, “We’re giving not just food, but time and love.”

Most gardens grow only fruits and vegetables. The Garden of Eatin’ yields a harvest of love, compassion, and sharing.

(Story by the Giraffe Project – Celebrating People who Stick Their Necks Out, and providing educational programs to inspire children to find and emulate heroes in their own communities.)

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