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Food bank delays opening gardens due to pandemic

LANSING (AP) — A Lansing-area food bank has postponed opening 19 community gardens because of concerns that residents using them or sharing gardening tools could spread or contract the coronavirus.

The Greater Lansing Food Bank mission for the Garden Project provides home and community gardens for low- and moderate-income residents. The organization said the garden allotments, which usually open in April or May, will remain closed until further notice, the Lansing State Journal reported.

Those plots served about 400 people last year, said the food bank’s CEO, Michelle Lantz.

Last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order, requiring residents with non-essential jobs to stay home unless to exercise or perform essential duties, such as grocery shopping. Her order extends through April 30.

“We don’t want to encourage people to be out in a community setting in contact with one another,” Lantz said, adding that the food bank is particularly concerned about gardeners sharing tools like trowels and water hoses.

She said that amid the growing pandemic the food bank’s focus “remains on doing whatever is necessary to safeguard the health and safety of our volunteers, staff, facilities, agency partners and program sites, like the gardens, while doing our absolute best to support our community.”

Food bank officials are trying to find workarounds for providing residents with seeds and educating them about gardening practices while they wait to be allowed back into the community gardens. The nonprofit says the resource center is suspended and that registered gardeners will not be able to borrow garden tools for the time being.

The food bank’s Mobile Food Pantry will still work with the city of Lansing to deliver healthy food directly to people during the pandemic.