There’s no place like it. Where else but Jewish Detroit (11 Mile in Berkley, Michigan to be precise) will you find a food pantry like Yad Ezra?

Google kosher food pantry: Yad Ezra is still one of a kind – the only kosher food pantry in the country with an onsite greenhouse. That greenhouse not only provides a harvest of fresh produce for its clients, it has blossomed into the Giving Gardens Club – a full-scale community gardening resource.

Now in its second year, the Giving Gardens Club, based at Yad Ezra, provides seeds and seedlings, year-round workshops and volunteer support to home gardeners in metro Detroit. “As Jews, we hold the seeds of our ancient wisdom in the concept of the commons – building sustainable and resilient communities,” says Carly Sugar, Giving Gardens Director. “If you’ve ever grown zucchini from a seedling, you know that just one plant will provide plenty for your family, enough to share with your neighbors, and quite possibly some to spare for the food pantry down the street. Modeled after Keep Growing Detroit’s Garden Resource Program, the Giving Garden Club is our way of lowering barriers of entry to gardening to individuals in our area and providing more access to local, fresh, healthy produce to our community and to our food pantry.”

Up with the micro-greens in the early morning light, this is Carly Sugar, Director of Giving Gardens at Yad Ezra

 “At Giving Gardens at Yad Ezra, I get to engage in this work of rebuilding every day, alongside Jews in my Detroit community who have been most disempowered by our capitalist food system. With hands deep in the soil and hearts deep in this dream, we grow for ourselves and for the future.” – Carly Sugar

A place to dig in and call our own. 

As Carly explains, Yad Ezra is “really good at doing the work” of a food pantry. By the numbers, Yad Ezra serves 1,500 client families – approximately 2,000 individuals every month – and distributes more than one million pounds of food a year. Working in partnership with food banks like Gleaners and Forgotten Harvest, Yad Ezra also provides fresh produce – onions, potatoes, cabbage and fruit daily. With the addition of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation Giving Gardens project and the build-out of the Geri Lester Greenhouse in 2016, the harvest fresh out of the garden at Yad Ezra has been a game-changer.  

“There are other food pantries and soup kitchens with gardens in our area and we continue to borrow from those models,” says Carly. “We’re inspired by the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Earthworks Urban Farm and the beautiful culture they’ve built in Detroit. In 2018, to build our own community garden resource program, we brought in Lindsay Pielack, Co-Director at Keep Growing Detroit, as a consultant. Lindsay has worked in the field of community gardening and urban greening for 20 years; she is an expert in educational and family programming and has grown an amazing program, now serving more than 1,600 gardens around the city. With Lindsay’s help, we’ve taken the best of her program and adapted it to focus specifically on our client base, our volunteers and supporters in the Jewish community.”

Thanks to Jewish Detroit’s community resources, including generous grants from the Jeffrey Farber Family Foundation, David and Nanci Farber Family Foundation and the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Foundation, membership to the Giving Gardens Club is free to clients of Yad Ezra and Bridge Card Users, and it’s open to everyone in the community for a suggested donation of $5 to $20. The benefits of membership are plentiful and include:

  • 8 varieties of seedlings and 16 varieties of seeds, grown and packaged in the Geri Lester Greenhouse. Pick up dates: Sunday, May 19, 12-2 pm; Monday, May 20, 10 am-12pm; Tuesday, May 21, 6-8 pm; Wednesday, May 22, 10am-12 pm
  • Invitations to educational events and monthly workshops – fresh ideas on food prep and preservation, gardening and greening, holiday cooking and more
  • Home gardening support, consultation and additional resources
  • Toolshare: a “library” of gardening tools-to-go, on loan to share 
Toolshare: one of the many resources available to members of the Giving Gardens Club

To be a part of the Giving Gardens Club, fill out an application here  To learn more about Giving Gardens Club and  the network of new and experienced gardening volunteers, email or call : Carly Sugar at / (248) 548-3663.  Stathis Pauls at  586-744-1888.

Mark your calendar

The growing season is here and there’s always something coming up where gardeners gather at Giving Gardens.  Join us.

o   5/19/2019 Spring Trip to Farber Farm with Hazon and Tamarack Camps, 1-5 pm (includes commute time to Tamarack Camps-) Tamarack’s Farber Farm, Hazon & Yad Ezra’s Giving Gardens team up to bring you a day of Jewish farm programming! Tour the farm, meet the chickens, harvest, cook, and eat with us to celebrate the coming growing season.  Carpool from Yad Ezra leaves at 1 pm.

o   7/14, 7/21, 7/28, Grow Forth: A 4-Part Learn-to-Garden Series, 8/4 2-4 pm- A Jewish Gardening 101 series co-taught by Giving Gardens and Hazon.  Participants will leave with the knowledge and confidence to start or improve their own home garden.  Gardening instruction, hands-on practice, skill- share, and Jewish frameworks around themes of Soil, Planting, Tending, and Harvesting.