Tag Archives: food

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 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. 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 database.  This allows the 40+ million Americans with home gardens to easily donate what they cannot use.

In August 2010 when 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, can make a significant difference!

Below you can view a TEDx talk from founder, Gary Oppenheimer.

How can you help?

Learn more about Ample Harvest on their website, or contact them directly via e-mail.  You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or their blog.

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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization


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Bake Me Home

Bake Me Home

Baking is a hobby of mine.  I love to find and try recipes for cakes, cookies and other desserts.  Today’s organization turned baking into a way to give back and help others.

Alison Bushman, a stay-at-home mom, and her 7 year old twin daughters, Amy and Emma had a desire to do something more for the homeless family shelter where they had volunteered together for three years.  They had begun volunteering with the shelter by collecting items at the twins’ birthday party each year.  Instead of gifts, the girls asked for items such as books, infant toys, and snacks for those staying at the local homeless family shelter.  When they delivered the donations, they also prepared a homemade pancake breakfast for the families.  The girls’ favorite part was always staying to play with the other kids at the shelter after breakfast.

After watching Teen Kids News coverage of the Young Entrepreneurs Convention, Emma asked if kids could really start their own business.  Amy’s love of cooking took the girls to “Camp Cuisine” where they learned about food as gifts and brought home their own mason jar of cookie mix.  Meanwhile, their mom was inspired by stories of wonderful philanthropic projects at a YA Connect Conference, but was not sure who would watch her kids if she was building houses in Mexico.  That is when the idea hit.  A simple jar of cookie mix for families leaving the shelter was a great way to give other mothers and children the experience of baking together that they loved so much.  After a lot of hard work and taste testing, Alison, Amy and Emma perfected their original Bake Me Home Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, applied for tax-exempt status with the IRS, and established the Bake Me Home organization in 2008.

Bake Me Home

Photo by Neysa Ruhl Photography

Bake Me Home is dedicated to promoting volunteerism and providing disadvantaged moms and kids with direct services that encourage shared family experiences.  They are based in Cincinnati, Ohio and depend on over 200 volunteers to help run their organization.  In February they moved into their own building after working out of a storage unit and their family home for almost five years.

They have four programs:

  • The Tote Bag Program helps families leaving shelters celebrate the beginning of a new life in a new home.  Each sturdy tote bag contains a jar of homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookie mix, a mixing bowl, spoon, cookie sheet, pot holder, spatula, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a $20 gift card to a grocery store for the essential butter, eggs, and a few other groceries.  This program helps over 350 families per year from 14 agencies.
  • The Family Portrait Program provides 5×7 framed portraits to shelter families.  This program started when photographer Annette Bryant wanted to do something for those who could not afford photos of their kids.  Over 400 families have received portraits with this program!
  • The Bake Me BACK Home Program sends two dozen homemade cookies to members of the military for a donation of $30.  Approximately half of each donation supports their Tote Bag and Family Portrait Programs.  Over 6,000 cookies have been sent to troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Bake It Forward Program allows children entering grades 2 through 9 an opportunity to apply for a grant of $100 for the charity of their choice serving children in Ohio.  Each applicant must perform a summer service project for the charity which helps further the Bake Me Home organization’s mission of promoting volunteerism.

Alison shared a couple quotes about their impact on the families they have helped.  One mother of four, after receiving a family portrait from Bake Me Home at a battered women’s shelter cried and said, “Thank you for this.  A picture is worth a thousand words.  I will always look at this and remember our turning point.  I am free.”  Another mother, after baking her cookies, said, “We made our cookies!  It was wonderful!  It made me feel like I accomplished something.  We had everything we needed.  I’ve used the pan lots of times for other things too.”

BMH Food Pantry

How can you help?

Bake Me Home has a wide variety of volunteer opportunities.

  • Help fill jars of their homemade cookie mix and tote bags.  Assembly events are posted on Facebook and sent out via e-mail.  You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing
  • You can volunteer to deliver Tote Bags to agencies.  You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing
  • Knit, crochet, or quilt pot holders to include in their tote bags.  You can find a free pattern here.
  • Donate new or gently used 5×7 photo frames for the Family Portrait Program.
  • Volunteers are also needed to assist with the Family Portrait photo shoots.  You can sign up using the volunteer form on their website or by e-mailing
  • Bake Me Home also holds an annual silent auction and accepts donated items.
  • They also need volunteers to assist with various administrative, fundraising, and graphic design projects.  Please contact them with your specific expertise.
  • They also accept monetary donations on their website.

To learn more about the Bake Me Home organization, visit their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Bake Me Home

Related Posts:Family-To-Family and Cookie Cart 


Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization


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Many families look for ways that they can give as a family.  Giving provides teachable moments for children to learn about generosity and gratefulness.  I wrote about one organization called Doing Good Together that offers many suggestions.  Today’s organization provides direct connections between families who wish to give and families that have a need.

In the fall of 2002, the New York Times ran a series of articles on poverty in the United States.  One article featured stories of poverty from Pembroke, Illinois where “some still live in crumbling shacks with caked-dirt floors and no running water.”  The article went on with other staggering statistics such as 98% of their school children qualify for free lunch and the average per capita income was less than half the national average.

Pam Koner, a mom and entrepreneur living in Westchester, New York, read that article and felt compelled to help.  She contacted an outreach worker in Pembroke to share her idea of linking families she knew with the neediest families in Pembroke.  She was given the names of seventeen families and then convinced sixteen friends and neighbors to help.  They began sending monthly boxes of food and letters – one family linked to another family.  The seventeen families quickly grew to 60 families, then after a flurry of media attention, they grew to 900 families linked across the United States.  The Family-to-Family organization was born.

They currently help approximately 2,000 moms, dads and kids in 22 communities across the United States.  Families sponsored through the program continue to be identified by local outreach partners who have specific knowledge of the needs of families in their communities.

Learn about the founding of Family-to-Family directly from founder Pam Koner in the following video:

The mission of Family-to-Family is to alleviate suffering, one American family at a time.  They started by providing groceries to supply seven dinner type meals for a family of five, but have expanded to help families in need in a variety of ways including sponsoring meals for families, a variety of literacy projects, donating seeds to a family to grow their own garden, and much more.

Learn about a recent addition to their program offerings where children in need are enabled to help other children in need to learn how it feels to give to others in the video below.


How can you help?

Family-to-Family offers a variety of opportunities to get involved.

  • You can sponsor a family.  They have multiple options on their website including packing and shipping your own sponsorship or sponsoring a family though an online donation.
  • Give a child in need a birthday party including a gift, decorations, and a cake through the Birthday Giving Project.
  • Give the gift of books through their Books for Life or One Book at a Time program.
  • Help a family build their own garden by donating seeds to one of the Family-to-Family community partners.
  • Help children with less learn how it feels to give by supporting the Giving Works program.
  • Monetary donations can be made on their website.  These donations help purchase food for families who are not currently sponsored, expand to additional communities, or general operating expenses.
  • Explore the Family-to-Family website to find additional opportunities to help.
  • You can also watch this video to see how you can help.
  • You can also help by spreading the word.  You can share this post using the share buttons below to encourage others to make a difference.

You can learn more about Family-to-Family on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Posted by on February 20, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization


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The Edible Schoolyard Project

The Edible Schoolyard Project

I grew up watching my mother and grandmother tend their huge gardens full of vegetables and some fruits.  In the last couple years I have started a small garden at home and have watched my kids enjoy helping and even trying the vegetables we have grown (which is a breakthrough moment for my anti-vegetable daughter).  Today’s organization has been bringing vegetables into schools for over 16 years.

In 1995, Alice Waters was quoted in her local paper stating that the school she passed each day looked as if no one cared about it.  The principal of that school, Neil Smith, contacted her to see if she had an idea to help.  Alice, a chef, wanted to start a garden and teaching kitchen at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School.  She saw these as tools for enriching the curriculum and the life of the school community.  The idea slowly began to take to form and through the involvement of faculty and parent volunteers, The Edible Schoolyard was born.

The garden and kitchen are not just used to teach gardening and cooking.  Lessons have included teaching fractions in the kitchen and growing heirloom grains to learn about early civilizations.  In addition, students who are involved in the garden are more likely to try the foods grown there.

The mission of the Edible Schoolyard is to create and sustain an organic garden and landscape that is wholly integrated into the school’s curriculum, culture, and food program.  At Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California the Edible Schoolyard curriculum is fully integrated into the school day and teaches students how their choices about food affect their health, the environment, and their communities.

You can watch the Edible Schoolyard in action in this short video:

The Edible Schoolyard Program now supports school garden programs throughout the world by providing resources and tools for teachers, parents, and advocates.  During the summer, the Berkeley location opens their doors to host the Edible Schoolyard Academy to provide hands-on activities, presentations, guided discussions, and curriculum building sessions to provide participants with the tools for teaching edible education.

How can you become involved?

  • Explore the network of school garden programs on the Edible Schoolyard website to see if a school near you is participating.  You can also register your school program.
  • Utilize the resources for school garden programs on the organization’s website or even contribute your own resource.
  • Sign up for the Edible Schoolyard Academy to learn how to incorporate edible education into your school.
  • You can also make a monetary donation to support the Edible Schoolyard program on their website.
  • If you live in Berkeley, California, you can volunteer at the Edible Schoolyard there.  Learn more on their website.  You can also volunteer at a school program near you.  To find one, search here.

To learn more about the Edible Schoolyard, visit their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, as well as their newsletter and blog.

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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Nonprofit Organization


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Sow Much Good

Sow Much Good

It is harvest time for home gardeners.  Several of my Facebook friends have been posting pictures of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more that they have picked from their gardens.  Not everyone has the ability to garden in their yards or have easy access to fresh produce.  Today’s organization is helping those living in one urban area get more fresh fruits and vegetables. 

In 2008, Robin Emmons decided to plant a few extra rows in her garden for her brother and others living in his mental health facility.  She had seen her brother’s health decline while he was being treated for his mental disorder and she felt it was due to his consumption of canned and sugary foods.  This was all the facility could provide since they were unable to afford fresh produce on their non-profit budget.  After Robin’s donations of fresh fruits and vegetables, her brother’s physical health improved dramatically as did the health of others at the facility.  Robin knew this probably happened in other places and she decided to do something about it.  This was the birth of her Charlotte, North Carolina based non-profit named Sow Much Good.

Sow Much Good is a 100% volunteer organization. Without volunteers manning the farm stands on Saturdays, people living in urban food deserts would not have access to healthy, affordable produce.

Sow Much Good believes that everyone has the right to clean and nutritionally dense food.  Eating fresh fruits and vegetables can help reduce health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.  The organization’s mission is to provide produce in underserved communities while teaching its residents how to grow and prepare their own fruits and vegetables.  They do this with hands on labor of their volunteers.  Even their executive director can be found working with other volunteers planting, weeding, and watering their three garden sites.  They then sell the fresh produce they harvest at farm stands at a low cost to people living in urban food deserts (areas without a full service grocery store). 

Company volunteer days are ways for corporations to be involved with Sow Much Good’s three micro farm sites.

Sow Much Good partners with landscapers, gardeners, farmers and community groups, and others to further their mission.   Through these partnerships, workshops have been held to show others how to grow gardens.  These workshops include information from nutritionists, growers, master gardeners and others.  A small 100 square foot garden can provide a family up to $700 worth of fresh produce per year and even a small garden can make a difference to those unable to purchase fresh produce nearby.

How can you help?

  • If you live in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, you can volunteer at one of their three gardening sites or at their farm stands.  You can find a list of local volunteer opportunities on their website.
  • They also seek monetary and in-kind donations to further their mission.  You can learn more about these opportunities on their website

You can learn more about the Sow Much Good organization on their website,  You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Related posts: Hands for Harvest and Open Arms of Minnesota


Posted by on September 11, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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Kindness: Pay It Forward

Today we have another guest post for my series on kindness.  Today’s post is by Kelsey Ohme, an Outreach Manager at Metro Meals on Wheels; an association of 37 Meals on Wheels programs serving the Twin Cities, Minnesota metro area.  Kelsey’s work at Metro Meals on Wheels has focused on recruiting and engaging the next generation of diverse volunteers to meet the growing need for Meals on Wheels in the Twin Cities. 

Meet Norm.

Norm is able to live independently in his own home in Maple Grove, Minnesota with the help of Meals on Wheels

Having lived in outstate Minnesota for most of his life, Norm actually delivered meals at a rural
Meals on Wheels program many years ago and fondly remembers his time volunteering as a way to
give back and connect with members of his community.

As life often does, Norm’s life has come full circle as he is now a recipient of Meals on Wheels. He
started receiving Meals on Wheels a couple of years ago after struggling with serious health issues.
At that time, he moved to the Twin Cities and his doctor recommended he receive Meals on Wheels
so that he would have a regular and nutritious meal on a daily basis to help him regain his health.

But for Norm and many others, Meals on Wheels is much more than a meal. Meals on Wheels is
about spreading kindness to seniors and individuals with disabilities who might otherwise be socially
isolated and lonely. By delivering Meals on Wheels you are sharing a smile, kind words, and a sense
of community with your neighbors. Many years ago, Norm was able to spread kindness to his
neighbors by delivering Meals on Wheels, and now he enjoys the friendly greetings his Meals on
Wheels volunteers bring him on a daily basis along with his meal.

Meals on Wheels conducted a survey of their clients and 40% of the respondents said the meal
delivery volunteer is the only person they see on an average day. When you think about that
statistic, it highlights why the kindness of a volunteer is so important in the lives of Meals on Wheels
recipients. Often times when volunteers deliver Meals on Wheels the client is waiting at the door in
anticipation of the meal, but even more so, to greet and chat with the volunteer who is delivering the

We invite you to learn more about Meals on Wheels and the many ways you can help spread
kindness to your neighbors at

“Words cannot express how much I appreciate all the volunteers who deliver the meals. If it wasn’t for them, I couldn’t live at home” —Meals on Wheels Recipient


Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Guest Post


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Women’s Bean Project

“Every person has a dark side. What defines a person with good character is not a spotless life of constant kindness, smiles and even temperament. But rather, it’s the yearning to learn from your mistakes, applying it, making amends for them and choosing not to repeat them that defines good character. These are the friends to keep in your life because they have stared adversity in the face and became a better person because of it.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Today’s organization is dedicated to giving women second chances.  The mission of the Women’s Bean Project is to change women’s lives by providing stepping stones to self-sufficiency through social enterprise. 

The Women’s Bean Project was founded in Denver, Colorado in 1989 by Jossy Eyre.  She was working at a day shelter for women and saw the same women visit the shelter multiple times.  The shelter was providing the women with a safe place to stay, but the women were not gaining the necessary skills for self-sufficiency.  Jossy used $500 of her own money to purchase beans and put two homeless women to work.   

The Women’s Bean Project serves as a transitional employment program, but they are set apart from other programs by teaching life skills and skills necessary for job placement to the program participants.  They want the participating women to be successful in the workplace and in life.  Approximately 25% of their time is spent in classes learning skills such as conflict management, financial management, organizational skills, computer skills, and job readiness.  These classes make them ideal candidates for employment when they graduate from the program.  You can hear stories from the women impacted by this program on their website.

The products that the Women’s Bean Project participants create are gourmet foods a recent addition of a jewelry line.  The participants work with women jewelry designers to learn the basic skills of jewelry-making to create limited edition pieces. 

How can you help?

  • You can support the mission of the Women’s Bean Project by purchasing their jewelry items and food, including soup mixes, cookie mixes, coffee, tea, sweets, and more. 
  • Volunteers are needed throughout the year as job coaches and life skill teachers.  Volunteers are also used when the product demand is higher and for special events.  You can learn more about the various volunteer opportunities and fill out a volunteer application here.
  • You can also make a monetary donation on their website.

To learn more about the Women’s Bean Project, you can visit their website at  You can also connect with them on Facebook or Twitter.

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Posted by on May 17, 2012 in Nonprofit Organization


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