Now in its third year, the AmpleHarvest.org campaign was created to help growers share their garden bounty with those in need by providing an online clearinghouse to locate neighborhood food pantries accepting donations of freshly harvested produce. More than 5,100 food pantries nationwide have registered on the organization’s free website, and the organization expects to have double that number, or about 1 out of every 3 in America, registered in two years.
“More than 50 million Americans, including 1 out of 4 children under the age of six, are food insecure, a fancy way of saying that they are hungry or are at real risk of becoming hungry,” says founder Gary Oppenheimer. “At the same time, more than 40 million people grow food in home gardens, often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends. Our goal has been to enable these millions of gardeners to easily find a neighborhood food pantry eager for their excess garden produce.” The organization’s core mission is No Food Left Behind.
“Gardeners historically have not donated their excess garden produce because they did not know that they should nor where they could donate because food pantries, usually located in a house of worship or other civic building without a prominent store front, sign or Internet presence, were invisible to the community,” notes Oppenheimer. “Additionally, many food pantries were not willing to accept produce because they thought they would need refrigeration and additional storage. AmpleHarvest.org, utilizing what in business is called a ‘just in time’ strategy, solved all of these problems by creating an easy-to-use national registry of pantries and by enabling the food pantries to receive and distribute the produce on a same day/next day basis, which solved their storage and refrigeration concerns.”
The impact has been significant: Last year, AmpleHarvest.org registered food pantries received more than 20 million pounds of locally grown garden produce.
Food banks, large warehouse operations that supply America’s 33,500 food pantries, have been very enthusiastic about AmpleHarvest.org’s work. “AmpleHarvest.org offers everyone an easy way to help families struggling to keep food on the table,” says Jennifer Gilmore, Executive Director of Feeding America San Diego. “You should see the smiles the fresh fruits and veggies bring. AmpleHarvest.org is a ‘why didn’t I think of that’ idea! Talk about a win-win concept – connecting gardeners with families struggling to keep food on the table.”
Any food pantry in America that is a nonprofit organization and distributes food for free can register itself to be “findable” by local growers at www.AmpleHarvest.org. The ultimate goal of the organization is to enable any gardener anywhere in the country to easily find a neighborhood food pantry when they end up harvesting more from their garden than they can use, and to eventually expand to farms, farmers’ markets, CSA’s and even some stores. A national map of the registered food pantries can be viewed on the Ample Harvest website. Connect your garden with your local food pantry today!