In Minnesota, this is the time of year where home gardeners are harvesting their bounty and cooking or preserving their harvest in canning jars. Today’s organization is working to encourage growers not to allow their harvest to go to waste.
Shortly after Gary Oppenheimer became the director of the Sustainable West Milford Community Garden in late 2008, he learned that some of their garden plot holders left large amounts of their garden unharvested when their crops produced more than they could possibly use. Gary was aware that hunger was a problem in his community so he suggested that they create a committee to help gather the extra harvest and deliver it to local food pantries. The program was named Ample Harvest West Milford.
Food pantries are hard to find because many operate without an Internet site or yellow pages listing. Even Google doesn’t provide an answer since it can only list those pantries it knows of. This challenge is shared by backyard gardeners throughout the United States who wish to share their excess bounty.
To address this dilemma, Gary created the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign, new supply side channel in our national food network that educates, encourages and enables gardeners with extra produce to easily donate to a local food pantry. AmpleHarvest.org gives food pantries the opportunity to register themselves in a central nationwide directory so that gardeners and other donors can share their fresh produce and, garden-by-garden, help diminish hunger in America.
The organization’s mission is to move information instead of food to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America by educating, encouraging, and empowering growers to share their excess harvest with the needy in their community rather than letting it rot in their garden. Their “No Food Left Behind” goal is being spread via a virtual solution to hunger. Today nearly 6,400 food pantries from 50 states are registered in the AmpleHarvest.org database. This allows the 40+ million Americans with home gardens to easily donate what they cannot use.
In August 2010 when AmpleHarvest.org was only 15 months old, a survey of registered food pantries indicated that more than 3 million pounds of freshly harvested locally grown produce had been donated to food pantries. At the end of 2011, it had increased to more than 20 million pounds. There are other benefits as well. Families who utilize the food pantries are introduced to new varieties of food they may have had no prior access to and gardeners across America can enjoy the satisfaction of helping their neighbors in need by reaching into their backyard instead of their back pocket. With one out of six Americans (including one quarter of all children under age six) without access to healthy fresh food at their local food pantry, AmpleHarvest.org can make a significant difference!
Below you can view a TEDx talk from AmpleHarvest.org founder, Gary Oppenheimer.
How can you help?
- Anyone can visit AmpleHarvest.org/NDS to help spread the word about the organization.
- Food pantries can sign up or update their registration on the Ample Harvest website.
- Gardeners can find a pantry to donate to on the Ample Harvest website.
- You can also make a monetary donation online.
- You can share my blog post, the TEDx video, or the PBS Growing a Greener World video about AmpleHarvest.org via social media.