If you’ve been listening to the series from the start, chances are you’ve had a productive gardening season! And that leads to the inevitable question we all find ourselves asking sooner or later; what am I going to do with all these vegetables? In this episode, Joe Lamp’l shares the best and newest ideas for easily sharing the bounty.
BHG023-Sharing the Bounty
If you’ve been listening to the series from the start, I feel confident that you’ve had a productive gardening season! And that leads to the inevitable question we all find ourselves asking sooner or later; what am I going to do with all these vegetables? And that’s what I want to talk about today. All too often, I’ve found myself tossing the surplus surplus into the compost bin. And for produce that is well past its prime, that’s the best place for it. But until then, there are much better solutions.
Today, one in six Americans needs food assistance, but can’t get fresh produce from their food panty, ironically while millions of American’s grow more food in their backyards than they can possibly use! Considering that each pound of produce supplements four meals, as gardeners we have a tremendous opportunity to share the bounty with those in need. And today, there are more resources than ever for making that process easier.
One of the most widely known national systems is Plant a Row for the Hungry. It was perhaps the first large-scale program of its kind to provide focus, direction and support for individuals and groups seeking to build home growing and local distribution systems to alleviate hunger. Plant a Row (PAR) began in Anchorage, Alaska, in the garden column of Jeff Lowenfels. He asked his readers to Plant A Row of vegetables for Bean’s Cafe, an Anchorage soup kitchen. The program was so successful, he pitched the idea to the Garden Writers Association as a national program. And since 1995, over 16 million pounds of produce providing over 60 million meals have been donated by American gardeners.
Yet, sometimes the best intentions fail to materialize. When it comes to fresh produce and its perishable nature, food pantries are not always set up to handle and store it. But thanks to the power of the Internet finding at least one place near you that can take in donated produce is now a lot easier to find.
One of the most popular online resources is AmpleHarvest.org. Just a few years ago, it’s founder, Gary Oppenheimer was dealing with the same question of what to do with the more than ample harvest that his community garden colleagues were producing every week. They were faced with the dilemma of not knowing how to efficiently and quickly get it into the hands of their neighbors in need. They soon realized that if they were asking the question, it had to be a common theme across the country. So Gary went to work building a website that connects people wanting to donate locally grown produce with those who need it most, right in the same community. Today, AmpleHarvest.org has registered thousands of food pantry sites so that anyone, anywhere, can go online and find a drop off site in their area. The website has made such an impact in dealing with our food distribution crisis, that Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Campaign has singled out AmpleHarvest.org as an integral part of meeting this challenge nationally.
Through organizations like Plant a Row for the Hungry, and AmpleHarvest.org, gardeners can simply reach into their backyard instead of their back pocket to help neighbors in need. Or perhaps you subscribe to a CSA co-op, and have produce left over. Or you can simply purchase fresh vegetables at your farmers market or grocery store, with the sole purpose of donating it to a food pantry. The bottom line is, you don’t have to grow it to help make a difference in breaking the cycle of hunger and waste – all while building community and healthier dietary habits.
One of my greatest joys in life is growing food, but nothing compares to the added pleasures of sharing the harvest with neighbors in need. If you enjoyed this podcast, there are 26 in the series, all created to make you a more successful gardener, so you too can share the bounty. You can subscribe to the series for free in iTunes, or listen online at Burpeehomegardens.com, where you can also find great ideas and inspiration any time.
Now go get dirty!