CHICAGO (CBS) — For the past five years, members of one Naperville church have been on a mission: They’re tending to a community garden to benefit their local food pantry, putting fresh herbs and vegetables on the tables of people who can’t otherwise afford them. CBS 2’s Sara Machi stopped by on harvest day and found out this partnership flourishes well after the growing season. “You see one here. There’s a zucchini,” said volunteer Elaine Brown.

Almost hidden at the corner of an industrial lot in Naperville, a small community garden with a big mission. Compass Church volunteers started growing this garden from seed in January, strategically scheduling their crops to peak through the growing season.

“Sometimes it can be the hardest part with peppers is that. Waiting for them to ripen.” Garden Manager Ronalyn Irle said the 700 square-foot community garden has already put out more than last year’s yield: 700 pounds, with more growing season ahead of them and an emphasis on what customers want most. “We do have a lot of requests for hot peppers. So we try to grow as many of us as we can,” Irle said.

The food grown there ends up at the West Suburban Community Pantry, where leaders said they try to tailor offerings to customers’ taste buds. “Many of them are from Hispanic communities. So having things like jalapeños, peppers, and Serano peppers, and some of the other beautiful things. Food options. It really makes a big difference to them, said Sue Armato of the West Suburban Community Pantry. “Because I think that reflects that we see them as individuals and we are meeting their individual needs.”

Pantry leaders said partnerships like this are vital because of the number of people they serve. Last year, it was 110,000. That’s almost double the year prior when they saw 65,000 people.

Garden managers said their mission of community service is now growing well past the plot. “Many of those folks that have been around for three to five years. They donate from there as well. So we have sort of multiplied our efforts without multiplying our space,” Irle said. They are serving their community and serving a higher purpose. “God is a generous God.”

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