Dunn has tended to the garden at the CHOW Farm for the past three years. CHOW gives out about 1.3 million pounds of food each year through food pantries and soup kitchens.
That’s because he manages the CHOW (Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse) Farm, where every carrot, head of lettuce and tomato helps feed the hungry of Broome County. This is the third year Dunn has managed the garden, a volunteer job which requires at least 20 hours a week.
“When people are hungry, that really bothers me,” he said. “That’s my main motivation.”
A program run through the Broome County Council of Churches, CHOW distributes approximately 1.3 million pounds of food each year through its network of 34 food pantries and 32 soup kitchens, said CHOW director Michael Leahey. Volunteers give about 25,000 hours of time each year sorting, delivering and giving away food and provide a critical service to CHOW, he said.
“It’s the only way we can do the work we do,“ Leahey said of the volunteers.
According to Leahey, many volunteers want to help CHOW feed the hungry because their church or other religious institution teaches them to be concerned about those in need.
“It’s part of their faith,” he said.
Leahey had high praise for Dunn.
“We really couldn’t ask for a better volunteer than Jim,” he said. “He gives 110 percent every day.”
A lifelong gardener, Dunn enjoys gardening and sharing his expertise with others. A big part of his job is managing the numerous volunteer groups who come to plant, hoe and weed at the garden. Volunteers come from all walks of life and have included a bus full of sorority members from Binghamton University, Girl Scouts and people serving weekend jail sentences.
Managing the garden is a yearlong job, he said. During the winter, he’s busy planning the garden. The rest of the year is spent planting, weeding, watering , harvesting and getting ready for the next growing season.
Fresh vegetables are a luxury for food pantries which tend to be stocked with canned and boxed food.
“We are trying to get the healthiest food we can out in the system,” Dunn said.
This has been a good year for the garden, he said. More than 1,200 lbs of vegetables will be donated to CHOW pantries and soup kitchens by the time the last carrot is dug up this fall.
When he’s not gardening for CHOW or for his own garden, Dunn also volunteers as a gardener at Cutler Botanic Gardens run by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County.
“It keeps me busy,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t think my hands have ever been clean.”
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