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Butler Catholic student gardeners help combat food insecurity

Raylan Senft, 10, a member of the fourth-grade Garden Club at Butler Catholic School, right, hands a tray of plants to Nick Leturgey of the Community Partnership on Wednesday afternoon, May 24. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

Students at Butler Catholic School presented plants to Community Partnership Wednesday, May 24, to be used in community meals and on its Produce Cart — a mobile food truck that sells locally grown produce and dairy products.

The plants, grown with the school’s new grow light table, will find a new home in the nonprofit’s community garden. Produce from the garden will be sold throughout the summer at locations in Butler, Beaver and Lawrence counties.

“These plants will be planted in community gardens in Butler, and produce will be put on the Produce Cart,” said Justine Brown, a master gardener with Penn State Extension. “We can get the seeds, plant them and get the food to people who need it.”

Madelyn Miklavic, 10, a member of the fourth-grade Garden Club at Butler Catholic School, brings out a tray of plants Wednesday, May 24, to be given to the Produce Cart. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

Longtime Penn State Extension Master Gardener Mary Ellen Walter donated the grow light table to Butler Catholic. The light allowed the school to grow the plants under a fluorescent light, ultimately making the process more efficient, Brown said.

The students have planted seeds in the school’s garden for years, and have a new greenhouse this year, but the grow light table lets them watch the seedlings every day inside a classroom, she continued.

Brown helps run an after-school garden club at Butler Catholic with fellow Master Gardener, RaeLynne Harrison, and the school’s director of development, Kathy Dudley.

The garden club and the grow light table have spurred interest in planting among students.

“The kids were really excited to plant the seeds and see the different varieties and watch them come up and grow and see,” Brown said.

Nick Leturgey, of Community Partnership, which manages the Produce Cart, said he had to buy vegetables to stock the cart to distribute throughout the community as it launched late last summer. The cart is intended to sell the produce at low rates in food deserts or locations easily accessible to seniors.

This season, the plants from Butler Catholic will help keep the cart stocked. Additionally, the produce will benefit organizations that host community meals held at five Butler churches. Each church hosts a community meal one day a week from 5 to 6 p.m.

Mondays are at First English Lutheran, Tuesdays at St. Paul Roman Catholic, Wednesdays at Saint Andrews United Presbyterian, Thursdays at St. Mark's Lutheran, and Fridays at First United Methodist.

According to Brown, the meals have been serving more people this year than in previous years, so growing food will be a big help.

“I see the need,“ Brown said. ”It really is a very cost-effective way of producing food that we need and food that our community can use.“

Brown said above all, she is happy to see other community staples get into gardening, and teaching people how to grow their own food.

“I'm just really excited for the kids and excited for Nick that he doesn't have to buy them,” Brown said.

Free community meals in Butler County


Butler area churches offer a free meal weeknights from 5 to 6 p.m.

Monday

First English Lutheran Church, 241 N. Main St.

724-283-2378

Tuesday

St. Paul Roman Catholic, 128 N. McKean St.

724-287-1759

Wednesday

Saint Andrews United Presbyterian Church, 201 E. Jefferson St. (Use Cliff Street entrance)

724-287-4777

Thursday

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 201 W. Jefferson St.

724-287-6741

Friday

First United Methodist Church, 200 E. North St.

724-283-6160

Produce Cart hours in Butler County


May 31

Noon to 6 p.m., Butler County Community College

June 6

Noon to 2 p.m., Park Manor

3 to 6 p.m., Sunbury Fields

June 7

Pop-up in Butler (location TBD)

June 8

Noon to 2 p.m., Saxonburg Commons

3 to 6 p.m., Petrolia Farmer’s Market

June 28

Noon to 6 p.m., Butler County Community College

July 5

Pop-up in Butler (location TBD)

July 6

Noon to 2 p.m., Saxonburg Commons

3 to 6 p.m., Petrolia Farmer’s Market

July 26

Noon to 6 p.m., Butler County Community College

Aug. 1

Noon to 2 p.m., Park Manor

3 to 6 p.m., Sunbury Fields

Aug. 2

Pop-up in Butler (location TBD)

Aug. 3

Noon to 2 p.m., Saxonburg Commons

3 to 6 p.m., Petrolia Farmer’s Market

Aug. 23

Noon to 6 p.m., Butler County Community College

Sept. 5

Noon to 2 p.m., Park Manor

3 to 6 p.m., Sunbury Fields

Sept. 6

Pop-up in Butler (location TBD)

Sept. 7

Noon to 2 p.m., Saxonburg Commons

3 to 6 p.m., Petrolia Farmer’s Market

Sept. 27

Noon to 6 p.m., Butler County Community College

Oct. 3

Noon to 2 p.m., Park Manor

3 to 6 p.m., Sunbury Fields

Oct. 4

Pop-up in Butler (location TBD)

Oct. 5

Noon to 2 p.m., Saxonburg Commons

3 to 6 p.m., Petrolia Farmer’s Market

Oct. 25

Noon to 6 p.m., Butler County Community College

Follow the Produce Cart on Facebook for updates on additional dates and locations.

Nick Leturgey, of Community Partnership, back right, stands with members of the fourth-grade Garden Club at Butler Catholic School on Wednesday, May 24. The students are holding up trays of plants they are donating to Community Partnership. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
The Garden Club at Butler Catholic School grew a number of plants inside a classroom using a light grow table. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle
Fourth-grader Sophie Stegner, 10, raises her hand to ask a question Wednesday, May 24, during a gathering of Butler Catholic School’s Garden Club. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle

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