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In the News: Senior club doesn’t just garden, it donates fruits and veggies to an N.J. food pantry

Princeton, NJ/ NJ.com — Virginia Cipriani was born in Italy and fondly remembers the family garden there.

“I came from Italy to the United States after the war,” she told NJ Advance Media. “Oh, I loved it (gardening in Italy). I still do it here. … It’s a lot of work but it’s such a joy.”

These days, Cipriani keeps up with her gardening as a resident of Brandywine Living at Princeton and a member of the, “Can You Dig It” Gardening Club. As rewarding as growing and harvesting plants, vegetables and herbs is for the members of the group, there’s an altruistic aspect to the club, too.

They donate the fruits of their labors to nearby South Brunswick Food Pantry.

After a recent harvest and accompanied by Brandywine staff, five of the gardeners boarded a van and made the trip to the South Brunswick Municipal Complex to personally deliver their harvest of zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, kale, cucumbers, squash and herbs. South Brunswick Social Services Director Jeanne Wert was there to greet them, along with colleague Ginger Haber.

“These vegetables will go a long way to help so many people,” Wert said.

As the generous gardeners loaded produce into baskets for the food pantry, the fragrance of fresh basil wafted through the air. Gardener Jean Trosko found the temptation too great, and popped a stray basil leaf into her mouth to munch on.

“I love to grow plants, especially flowers,” she said. “When I was younger I used to can a lot of vegetables.”

Her sentiments were echoed by fellow “Can You Dig It?” club member Cathy Richey.

“Oh I remember my father having a garden. Oh my gosh! Tomatoes were beautiful,” she said. “Oh gosh, it brings back memories. Great memories.”

Brandywine Living at Princeton’s vegetable garden recently underwent an expansion with a groundbreaking on May 20 as part of an initiative to provide fresh produce to the South Brunswick Food Pantry.

“The partnership between the luxury senior living community and food pantry is a mutually beneficial relationship to the community’s residents and local families in need,” the center said in a release about the program.