Philbrook Trades Tulips for Tomatoes to Feed Oklahoma’s Hungry

Philbrook Museum of Art recently announced that it will be converting its entire 3,600 square-foot south formal garden into a vegetable garden in an effort to help Oklahoma’s hungry.

By: Cindy Stevens | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: June 2009

Melinda McMillan, garden manager at Philbrook Museum of Art, says that they are simply doing their part to help others in times of need by growing vegetables for Oklahoma’s hungry.

In a time when food stamp participation in Oklahoma is at an all-time high, Philbrook Museum of Art recently announced that it will be converting its entire 3,600 square-foot south formal garden into a vegetable garden in an effort to help Oklahoma’s hungry get through the current economic downturn. The produce will be donated to the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, who will in turn distribute it to their 450 partner programs in 24 counties of eastern Oklahoma.  

“Philbrook has an opportunity to capitalize on an area of the gardens that was to remain empty for the 2009 growing season,” said Melinda McMillan, garden manager at Philbrook Museum of Art. “Continuing Waite Phillips’ legacy of helping Oklahomans in times of need, we are just doing our part to assist others during these tough times by planting the empty gardens with vegetables.”

The need for more food is clearly evident. Agency members of the Food Bank are reporting a 40 percent increase in the number of people seeking food assistance over this time last year. The Food Bank distributed more food in March and April of this year than any other time in the Food Bank’s 28-year history: almost one million pounds each month. Of the nearly 8.5 million pounds of food they distributed last fiscal year, almost a million of it was fresh produce.

“Fresh produce is one of the most sought-after commodities at the Food Bank,” said Sara Waggoner, executive director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. “We are fortunate to be able to offer this kind of nutritious food that is grown locally and picked that very day. Philbrook is certainly setting a good example for all us backyard gardeners to follow.”

Philbrook has committed to doing the hard work: digging the beds, planting the seedlings, digging weeds and watering. According to McMillan, the seeds, supplies and plants were donated. The vegetable garden, which will be designed in the French potager and English kitchen garden styles, will be both aesthetically pleasing and appetizing.

“The collaboration between the Food Bank and Philbrook is a very exciting adventure, and I am anxious to see the gardens grow and develop,” said McMillan.

Produce planned this summer are tomatoes, peppers, beans, eggplant, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, okra, watermelon and cantaloupe as well as various herbs, such as basil, oregano, parsley and thyme. What the Food Bank cannot distribute as fresh will be processed in their Culinary Center into a form that can be frozen and distributed later as part of their Value-Added Processing Program.

The Food Bank is responsible for harvesting the produce. Volunteers are needed to help with this process. Volunteers can contact Kate Pelizzoni, director of volunteer services at the Food Bank, at eat0@eau0eav0eaw0 or (918) 585-2800, ext. 112.

Everyday gardeners can help in the Philbrook and the Food Bank’s efforts to provide fresh produce to the hungry by participating in Plant a Row for the Hungry, a program launched in 1995 by the Garden Writers Association of America. It encourages backyard gardeners to grow a little extra each season and donate the abundance to the hungry. People can donate their excess produce each year either directly to the Food Bank or to a nearby member agency. Call the Food Bank at (918) 585-2800 for more information, or go online to

Philbrook is a premier cultural institution in the city of Tulsa and a state-wide leader in the cultural life of Oklahoma. Philbrook has an outstanding permanent collection of art from around the world housed in a 1920s Italianate villa, surrounded by 23 acres of pristine gardens. Numerous educational programs for children and adults and a full schedule of special exhibitions make the museum an essential resource for our community and state. Serving an average of 123,000 visitors annually, Philbrook has become a poignant testimony to Tulsa’s past and a shining example of our city’s bright future. For additional information, visit

Founded in 1981, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is a private, nonprofit organization located in Tulsa that distributes donated grocery items to 440 partner programs in 24 counties of Eastern Oklahoma. These programs include food pantries, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, after-school programs, shelters and senior centers. In turn, those programs collectively feed 50,000 people each week, the equivalent of 539,000 meals per month. In addition, the Food Bank helps raise public awareness about hunger and the role of food banking in alleviating hunger. Last year the Food Bank distributed over 8 million pounds of food.

For more information, contact

Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma

1304 N. Kenosha Ave.
Tulsa, OK 74106
(918) 585-2800 

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Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma

For more information, contact:

Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma

(918) 585-2800
1304 N Kenosha Ave | Tulsa, OK

More about Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma:

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