Sharing Our Produce with Casa Marianella

SFC’s mission is to cultivate a healthy community by strengthening the local food system and improving access to nutritious, affordable food. SFC envisions a food-secure community where all children and adults grow, share, and prepare healthy, local food. As you see, sharing with our community is an integral part of our mission. Our East Austin neighbor, Casa Marianella, has been serving recent refugees and asylum seekers in Austin since 1986. This volunteer-driven emergency homeless shelter provides food, housing, clothing, legal services, English classes and other resources to its residents who last year came to Austin from three dozen countries.


The J.P.’s Peace, Love and Happiness Teaching Garden at SFC is a 3,000 square-foot public garden adjacent to the St David’s Foundation Community Garden. The garden hosts SFC’s gardening classes and field trips. Class participants and volunteers help plant and tend regionally-specific produce with instruction from knowledgeable facilitators and SFC’s Teaching Garden Coordinator, Liz Cardinal. In the last 12 months, the garden produced about 344 pounds of produce. 60% of it is used in SFC programming like field trips and cooking classes, but there is too much to be used solely by SFC. Luckily, an overabundance of fresh, healthy produce is a great problem to have. About once a week, Liz delivers the additional produce to Casa Marianella. She says, “One of the things I love about delivering the produce to Casa Marianella is seeing the friendly faces of the residents who receive the produce. Although there is almost always a language barrier, we are all excited to see the beautiful produce that just came out of the garden.”


Many food donations to emergency shelters are processed or canned foods due to their stable shelf-life, so being able to supplement those items with fresh produce is beneficial. Julia Stone, a Casa Marianella staffer comments, "We at Casa count on our weekly donations from the food bank and different organizations around Austin. While we get plenty of canned goods, fresh veggies go far and are almost always immediately put to use. It's fun to see how our residents transform local veggies into delicious African and Latin American dishes!"

Since there is almost constant cooking happening at Casa, the fresh produce does not go to waste. The residents of Casa cook in a community kitchen and there are usually delicious smells wafting out of the open windows when Liz arrives. “I know the produce is being used by people that may not have the best means of access to healthy food, and therefore my work in the garden is definitely fulfilling our mission,” she says. If you have a desire to share your garden harvest, there are many organizations in Austin like Casa Marianella that will receive fresh produce. You can find a list here.