Minnesota Girl, 11, Gardens To Curb Hunger

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you think of food shelves, you may think canned foods, cereal and things like nonperishable items, but one Minneapolis 11-year-old set out to change that.

The soon-to-be sixth-grader, Silja Bijnagte, is spending her summer in the garden; not just any garden, but a garden at the footsteps of Joyce Uptown Food Shelf in Minneapolis.

It’s how this garden, her first, came to be that makes Silja Bijnagte a Minnesotan to Meet.

Silja Bijnagte lists off some of the food she is growing: “Beats, onions, carrots, beans, and over in the last bed, broccoli and zucchini.”

When WCCO visited her in July, she was eager to show her work off. It’s a garden that came to be in her elementary school classroom.

“It was a school project and we had to do something to help our community and the neighborhood, and I thought of a food shelf,” Bijnagte said. “I thought they had a lot of canned food and thought they could use some fresh food and then we could build vegetable gardens.”

And that’s exactly what she did. She made calls to local businesses, asking for donations of soil and lumber.

“I had the idea, but my mom and dad helped me get all the supplies,” Bijnagte said. “The food shelf said yes right away.”

Then she pleaded to parishioners at her church, Lake Harriett United Methodist, asking them to lend a helping hand, while she worked to build the vegetable gardens at Joyce Food Shelf in Uptown.

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(credit: CBS)

Pastor Melanie Homan absolutely loved seeing the response.

“It was wonderful to see young girls and boys to have drills in their hands and adults to show the support,” Homan said.

According to Homan, Joyce Uptown Food Shelf doesn’t turn anyone away and is open to all those need in the neighborhood.

“It gives me hope for the future,” Homan said. “When we were able to help kids see that they can make a difference, that each one of us can make a difference, and I think that Silja has made a difference and been an inspiration to all of us.”

She’s certainly off to a pretty good start.

“It makes me feel good that I did something good to help, and makes me feel like I’m helping the world and making it a better place,” Bijnagte said.

Joyce Uptown Food Shelf gets some of its donations of fresh foods from local co-ops as well. Homan said they are hoping to build up a volunteer base and keep the garden going in the future.

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