When it comes to growing food, most gardeners know that crops tend towards feast or famine. When a gardener is just learning the ins and outs of growing edibles, she may end up with one measly eggplant or a few stunted tomatoes. But once she gets the hang of it, she can end up with extra produce and far more fruit and vegetables than a single person or family can eat.
In these tough economic times, when one of every eight Americans doesn’t have enough food for an active, healthy life, an ideal solution would be to donate homegrown surplus to local food banks and soup kitchens.
That solution has a problem, however. Some food banks and soup kitchens only accept non-perishable food items, and finding the ones that do accept green goods can be difficult and time consuming. Fortunately, resources are available to help match up growers with organizations that can put surplus produce to the best possible use.
Where to donate
The AmpleHarvest.org (www.AmpleHarvest.org; 973-409-4093) campaign is one group working hard to ensure gardeners can find good outlets for their produce. AmpleHarvest.org was created in 2008 specifically to help backyard gardeners share their bounty. Gardeners can search the AmpleHarvest database by entering a ZIP code or city to find all registered pantries within a specified distance. Entries include name, address and other contact information, and also days and hours that donations are accepted.
If AmpleHarvest does not list a food pantry near you, you can find a group to accept your produce several other ways.
Many food pantries operate out of houses of worship. Check the churches in your area. You also may search Angel Food Ministries (www.AngelFoodMinistries.com; 877-366-3646), which lists thousands of churches across the country that help get food into the hands of the needy.
FeedingAmerica.org (formerly America’s Second Harvest, www.FeedingAmerica.org; 800-771-2303) has a search function to locate food banks in your area. If you find a conveniently located foodbank, contact them to ask if they accept fresh produce.
LocalHarvest.org (www.LocalHarvest.org; 831-515-5602) has a searchable listing of farmers’ markets, family farms and other sources of locally grown food.
Another method is to ask local farmers where they donate their surplus produce.
A United Way service, 2-1-1 can help you locate service organizations in your immediate area. Dial 2-1-1 on your telephone and ask the operators about food banks or food pantries in your area.