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Staten Island Garden Grows Veggies to Feed Sandy Victims

By Nicholas Rizzi | April 23, 2013 8:20am

MIDLAND BEACH — New community gardens are sprouting up on Staten Island to feed Hurricane Sandy victims — and in case of a future storm, they're designed to float.

The nonprofit Feeding Family has transformed a vacant Midland Avenue lot into a garden of raised beds, aiming to grow fresh, organic produce for those who are still struggling after the superstorm.

The wooden beds were engineered to float to the top of future floodwaters, said Caitlina Guarnier, a South Beach resident who co-founded the organization.

“It’s a beautification process,” she said. “It’s also a food product.”

Feeding Family started the Midland Avenue Community Garden, on the corner of Midland Avenue and Freeborn Street, last month, and the group plans to open nine other community gardens in leased lots in Sandy-damaged neighborhoods.

The Midland Avenue garden has 11 beds with fruits and vegetables planted that include lettuce, carrots, beets, beans and more. The group plans to add five more beds soon.

When harvest time comes, Feeding Family will use the produce to to cook food for Sandy victims, something that Guarnier, 25, started doing immediately after the storm.

“I started this from my house,” she said. “Less and less help was coming.”

With hotel vouchers from FEMA set to end on May 1, Guarnier said many families will be returning to their homes to live for the first time since the storm. Many might not be able to cook.

“We have a feeling food needs will skyrocket,” Guarnier said.

Garden beds have been sponsored by local Girl Scout troops, and Guarnier plans to provide space for residents to grow their own produce.

And if the gardens produce more fruit and vegetables than the group needs for their meals, they'll give it to residents, Guarnier said.

The group, which leased the building next-door to the Midland Avenue garden as a base of operations with several other relief groups, also provides mold remediation, demolition and other services for victims.

They expect to launch their next garden in a couple of weeks on Windom Avenue in Arrochar.