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South Salt Lake • It all began with a stomach-knotting statistic: 1-in-7 Utah children younger than 5 doesn't have enough food at home.
It's a number that didn't settle well with Morgan Barron, a 13-year-old Girl Scout from Riverton who figured the best way to fight hunger was to grow more food.
"I wanted to do something about it," Morgan said. "I thought it would be important if people in urban areas could plant gardens."
So the teen went to work, recruiting volunteers and writing grants for a community garden in South Salt Lake's Harmony Park that now offers tillable plots for about two dozen families near 3700 South and West Temple. It also includes several raised beds for people with disabilities.
The garden was no halfhearted effort. Morgan enlisted the help of about 40 volunteers to dig rows and snagged donations totaling $4,300 from the Girls Scouts and Zions Bank.
"It is great to see our next generation coming forth with creative ideas," county Mayor Peter Corroon said, "and looking for ways to become more involved in the community."
But Harmony Park wasn't Morgan's first venture into community growing. She helped shape a garden in South Jordan's Daybreak community and then produced more than 150 pounds of food for the Utah Food Bank with the help of classmates at South Hills Middle School in Riverton.
The two garden projects were part of Morgan's pursuit of the Girl Scouts' Silver Award, which is the highest achievement for a "cadette" Scout in the 11- to 14-year-old category.
"Morgan is the type of girl who goes above and beyond in everything she does," said Kabi Eaton, spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts of Utah. "She is very accomplished and very driven. She has the true sense of service."
Although Morgan concedes she probably could have received her Silver Award for the work she did in Daybreak alone, she said she wasn't finished not with that statistic about childhood hunger in her head.
A report titled, "Child Food Insecurity in the United States, 2005-2007," estimated that 39,196 Utah children, all younger than 5 years old, suffered from insufficient food at home. That's about 14 percent of the 278,252 children in that category or 1-in-7.
"I wanted to do something on a bigger scale," said Morgan, looking over the Harmony Park garden with her shovel nose-deep in wood chips. She hopes some of the food from Harmony's still-unplanted rows will someday help supply the Utah Food Bank.
Morgan's mother, Janae Barron, stood nearby and smiled.
"Morgan has always been a very serious, goal-oriented person," Barron said. "This is nothing new. It didn't blow me out of the water that she decided to do this."
Because of the money Morgan raised, Salt Lake County will be able to install a toolshed at the garden. The growing plot is part of the county's urban-farming program, which aims to put fallow government land to productive use.
The garden certainly put Morgan's summer to productive use. But by the time school rolled around, Morgan had a different outlook than many of her peers.
" 'I'm ready to go back to school,' " her mother recalled her saying. " 'I'm kind of tired.' "
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O Find more information about community gardens > http://www.urbanfarming.slco.org