GardenWorks Project

Nearly 100,000 people are in need of food in DuPage County, but one group is working to change that, one garden at a time.

Paula Fraser is the President of the GardenWorks Project, a not-for-profit working to end hunger by teaching those in need of food assistance how to grow their own food.

“Here in Naperville it’s easy to think that nobody has food insecurity, but with the high cost of living that goes hand-in-hand with it’s hard to make ends meet,” said Fraser.

That was the case for Lisa McNeeley, a Naperville resident who found herself in financial trouble before coming to town.

“I ended up living with my brother in Addison and for some unknown reason he asked us to leave after a year,” said McNeeley.

With no other family to turn to, she found a home in Naperville with Bridge Communities, but what she didn’t know was they could help her literally put food on the table.

Bridge Communities is just one of the food pantries GardenWorks partners with to bring food to those in need.

“It fit perfectly with what we were already trying to do, and it’s worked out really great for our families. When we meet with them, we talk about ‘How do you use kale? How do you use cilantro?’” said Mollie Howieson, Case Manager with Bridge Communities.

Through volunteers, the project helps families learn to plant their own garden and grow and prepare meals from their harvest.

“You can give people a handout, but really if you give them a means to sustainably provide for themselves, it has a much longer reach,” said Fraser.
The two groups helped give McNeeley two things she never thought she’d have, her own garden in her own apartment.

“It just made me feel good because I was doing it for me and my heath, and just being in here and having that to take care of made me feel good. In the past year so much has changed for us in so many ways, so I’m really thankful for the program,” said McNeeley.

Since the GardenWorks Project began in 2011, they’ve partnered with five different food pantries to teach more than 250 people to grow food at home.

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