FOX 8 Garden helps food pantry create four-star meals

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CLEVELAND, Ohio - For the past five years, we've been planting a FOX 8 garden with the help of AJ Petitti and the Petitti Garden Centers.

This year, we decided it was time to share our bevy of veggies.

We reached out to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, which put is in touch with Jan Ridgeway.

She's the volunteer director of the Garden Valley Neighborhood House.

It runs the largest food pantry in Northeast Ohio and operates in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.

Jan has been thrilled with the bounty of goodness the FOX 8 Garden has produced.

"Oh! So many green tomatoes." Jan exclaimed on her most recent visit.

"We're always looking for opportunities that could supplement or extend the programs that we do and the garden has allowed us to do that."

Every week Jan stops by to pick vegetables and gather gardening advice from the expert, AJ Petitti.

Back at Garden Valley, she gets creative.

"We took that arugula last time and put goat cheese with it and a balsamic vinegar. And that was their appetizer with their dinner. I mean, they loved it."

AJ laughs, "It's a 4 star restaurant."

On Wednesdays Jan and her group of volunteers make a meal for seniors with what she's harvested.

Linda McGhee, who has been going to Garden Valley Community House for about nine years chuckles, "It gives me, because I'm not a vegetable eater, but it gives me more vegetables."

For many, they're eating a meal they wouldn't normally try or afford, and they are often tasting something they never have.

87-year-old Ireda Brent comes to Garden Valley regularly to visit the food pantry and enjoy Wednesday's hot meal.

"She do some wonderful cooking over here. I love the lunches. You get at least once a week good lunch here."

The Garden Valley Neighborhood House is self-funded and entirely volunteer, a resource that's bridging the gap and lifting people up to healthier living.

The room full of seniors roars with laughter as Jan jokes, "If you don't eat your salad, you don't get an ice cream sandwich."

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