Rob Schulman is known to his fellow volunteers as “the tomato guy.”
“There’s nothing like picking a tomato, slicing it up, and putting a little salt and pepper on it,” Rob says with a smile. “It’s as good as anything you could get at the fanciest restaurant in the world.”
A retired patent attorney who spent 35 years working at D.C.-based law firms, Rob now commutes the hour from McLean, VA to the Capital Area Food Bank twice a week to tend to the tomatoes and other produce in its Urban Demonstration Garden. “Boy I just enjoy getting my hands dirty and doing something useful,” he said.
His love of gardening started in childhood (incidentally, with a bite into a Jersey tomato as a first-grader), and he’s been involved with growing ever since, tending to his own 600-square foot garden when he’s not at the food bank.
He learned about the demonstration garden through a friend in his congregation, and the community of volunteers he found there is one of the reasons he keeps coming back. “It’s been an incredible experience to work with (staff) and the other volunteers to build the garden into something special,” he shared.
Rob says he believes the time they put in is worth it because the garden helps the local community, and because it supports a program that teaches people how to grow food themselves while incorporating greater nutrition into their diets.
In addition to his service at the food bank, Rob has begun to use his passion for gardening elsewhere in the community. At his church in Virginia, he’s started an 800-square-foot garden, and all the food it produces goes to the church’s food pantry.
“The way I see it, so many of these churches and YMCAs and rec leagues have plenty of land,” Rob says. “The gardens could have a dual purpose – they can get local communities to spend time together outdoors and build kinships, and they can provide food to those who need it.”
It’s with that vision in his mind – and his hands in the dirt – that Rob Schulman continues to take action against hunger, one tomato at time.