ITHACA, N.Y. – A new garden site in downtown Ithaca will open this week with a mission to provide fresh food to local pantries.

Members of GreenStar Community Projects are leading an initiative to create learning gardens for Ithaca’s downtown food pantries. “All City of Ithaca residents will enjoy food security. Residents will have opportunities to grow their own food locally through private or community gardens,” their mission states.

GSCP has partnered up with the Cornell Cooperative Extension, Loaves & Fishes and Southside Community Center for the project – the first garden will be unveiled on Thursday afternoon.

Volunteer crews have been working throughout the summer to prepare the soil, build a shed and plant several beds within the site, which is located near the intersection of Esty Street and Route 13. The garden will be wheelchair accessible and will offer examples of affordable container gardening options utilizing items like buckets, milk crates and pallets.

According to a release from GSCP, the main visions for the learning garden is currently focused on developing food self-sufficiency within the community, sharing tools and techniques, garden-based recipes and encourage members of the community to meet their neighbors.

“The garden team does not assume that food insecure families can meet all their needs from neighborhood gardens,” the release stated. “And we are keenly aware that a failed garden is worse than none at all.”

Members of the immediate neighborhood are invited to take a plot, although most of the produce from the garden will be distributed to downtown food pantries. Loaves & Fishes, a downtown pantry – which provides 150 meals a day– has brought on their lead chef to incorporate the fresh produce into their free meals every week.

Members of the garden initiative also paired with the Cornell Cooperative Extention to organize a five-week gardener training class, Seed to Supper, from April to June. Now, the Southside Community Center has two raised beds on their property and a core group of budding gardeners.

While GSCP is currently on the lookout for a second garden site, join them for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the first site on Esty Street on Thursday afternoon at 12:15 p.m.

Correction: Loaves & Fishes provides 150 meals per day, not per week as previously reported.