Make Everyday Earth Day

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Keynote Speaker Gary Oppenheimer is the Founder and Executive Director of AmpleHarvestorg

Keynote speaker Gary Oppenheimer is the Founder and Executive Director of AmpleHarvestorg

 

I have a strong suspicion that among all people running nationwide organizations that work to alleviate hunger and malnutrition in America, I’m the only one who is a graduate of an environmental stewards program (from Rutgers University) as well as a town environmental commissioner.

Indeed as far as I know, AmpleHarvest.org is the only hunger initiative that has a strong environmental component.

Let me ‘splain.

AmpleHarvest.org does help local growers share their excess harvest with a nearby food pantry, so from that perspective, it appears to be a hunger program, yet if you take a step back for a moment, you’ll see that at its heart, AmpleHarvest.org addresses food waste.

We waste a LOT of food.

How much is a LOT?

According to a recent USDA study with a typically long government name like “The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States”, America loses $161 billion worth of food annually – about 31% of our food supply, and a 2012 report from the National Resource Defense Council found 40% of our food, including more than half of our fruit and vegetables, never made it to the dinner table.

These reports, while chock full of data assembled by really good authors, left out the additional food lost by America’s 42 million home gardeners, each of whom can harvest but typically not consume 300 lbs. of food annually.  So whatever the actual food loss number is, it is actually higher than the reports indicate.

The fresh food that we don’t consume either ends up composted/tilled under (bad for people but less so for the environment) or is thrown away (bad for both).

Why?

Every pound of produce that is thrown into the trash generates a pound of methane which is equivalent to 20 lbs. of CO2 and thereby contributes to climate change.  Additionally, every pound of fresh food that could have gone to a pantry but was instead tossed requires another pound of processed food to be purchased and then shipped in from somewhere else thereby adding to the carbon footprint in the community.  Lastly, the can/jar/box it came in also needs to be thrown away, further adding to the waste stream (and in many cases, your local taxes).

Indeed the EPA considers food waste an environmental hazard.

So where does AmpleHarvest.org fit in this discussion?

Making Everyday, Earth Day

When AmpleHarvest.org enables a grower to donate fresh food s/he couldn’t eat, their donation displaces a similar amount of purchased processed food and ultimately helps to reduce the carbon footprint, waste stream and methane emissions in the community.  It also saves the pantry money and can be a tax deduction for the donor.

It’s also healthier food.

Most food program focus on how many pounds of food or how many meals get to people who need it.

We see a bigger picture.

AmpleHarvest.org is the only initiative that is focused on helping both the people as well as the planet.  The idea behind our “No Food Left Behind” mantra is that what we have should be consumed by someone.  

Whatever we waste is a shame.

Learn more at www.AmpleHarvest.org/green or visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/support to help us expand our green solution to hunger.

 

Food Pantry Friday

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It’s Food Pantry Friday! Food pantries in communities across the country are registering on AmpleHarvest.org and they want local gardeners/growers to know they are ready and eager to accept fresh produce donations! You can let gardeners in your community know about AmpleHarvest.org by printing and sharing this flier: www.AmpleHarvest.org/gardenshop

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This week we are welcoming newly registered food pantries in the following cities and towns: Fleming, GA / Erie, PA / West Jefferson, OH / South Zanesville, OH / Smackover, AR / Birmingham, AL / Four Oaks, NC / Dennisville, NJ / Pitman, NJ / Alamogordo, NM / Lovington, NM / Atlanta, GA / Battle Ground, WA / Perkasie, PA / Enterprise, OR / Delaware, OH / Chicago, IL / Corning, NY / Pella, IA / Dallas, TX / Bloomfield, PA and Locust Grove, OK

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Joe Lamp’l Talks Vegetable Gardening – AmpleHarvest.org

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Joe Lamp’l is the Host and Executive Producer of the award winning PBS television series Growing A Greener World, and a member of the AmpleHarvest.org Board of Directors

Vegetable Gardening Overview
By Joe Lamp’l
(originally posted at www.GrowingAGreenerWorld.com)

One of the most important factors to growing healthy vegetable plants is to make sure the soil is loose and drains well. Once you feel like you’ve got the soil right, it’s important to check the pH. Almost all vegetables grow best in a pH range of 6.0-6.5. There are kits you can purchase at your local nursery or garden center, but in my experience, they don’t provide the level of accuracy I’m comfortable depending on. Therefore, I’m a big fan of having soil tested through your local cooperative extension service. For only a few dollars, you’ll get lots of helpful information about your soil, which is provided in an easy to read report. It includes not only the pH level, but also information on how to improve your soil to provide optimal growing conditions.

Preferred growing seasons

Each vegetable has a preferred growing season. A vegetable that grows well in the summer won’t even begin to perform in the winter, and visa-versa. That’s why vegetable crops are classified as either “warm season” or “cool season” crops. As we enter into the warm season, I will focus on some of the most popular vegetables to grow, and share a few tips along the way. Included in the list of southern favorites are beans (pole, bush, snap, and lima), corn, cucumbers, cantaloupe, eggplant, southern peas, okra, peppers, squash (summer and winter), sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and watermelon.

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“Warm season” crops should be planted outside, after the risk of frost has passed. Check with your county extension agent to find the frost-free date for your area. Many gardeners get a jump on the planting season by starting their crops indoors, weeks in advance of this date. Then by the time the risk of frost has passed, they’ve got seedlings ready for planting. Well almost. This is assuming they’ve “hardened-off” their plants to acclimate them to the outdoor climate. Plants started indoors, such as in a greenhouse, or basement, are accustomed to warmer temperatures. Without gradually getting them used to the cooler, and sunnier conditions of outdoors, the plants could suddenly die. Conditioning them over a week or so, by extending the length of time they are exposed to their ultimate environment, will give the plants a much better chance of getting off to a good start, once they’re planted outdoors.

Use common sense

If you are buying seedlings from a nursery or garden center, use common sense as you shop for your plants. Of course, avoid any plants that look sickly. These are suffering in some way, and if purchased, you may be bringing home a disease, or pest which may spread to other plants or crops in your garden. If you don’t find healthy looking plants, don’t buy them. As you’ve surely seen, vegetable plants are sold in many places around mid April, so you’re sure to find some healthy plants at another location. Also, you might want to inquire from the store manager when their first, or next shipment of plants is due to arrive. This way you will avail yourself to the freshest plants the store has to offer.

Read the label

Once your seedlings are ready to plant, the best general information is to read the label that came with the plant, or on the seed pack. Not all plants are put in the soil the same way. Many plants are planted at the same depth as the root ball. Other plants are planted more deeply, such as tomatoes. It pays to do your homework, especially if you are looking for great results the first time. However, I’ve learned as much about gardening from my failures, rather than my successes. Of course, there is no substitute for planning and preparing, but don’t be afraid to experiment if you’re unsure. The worst that can happen is that you have to replant, or wait until next season. Both are very forgiving options.

Food Pantry Friday

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recipe 3Welcome to Food Pantry Friday – Every day established food pantries and hunger-relief agencies in cities and towns across the U.S. register for free on www.AmpleHarvest.org.  Food Pantry Friday is our way of welcoming those newly registered pantries who are eager to accept and distribute fresh produce to those in need in their local communities – it’s also a way for you learn something new about AmpleHarvest.org and how you can help!

By registering your pantry on AmpleHarvest.org you are helping those in need have healthier options!recipe1

We all know that it is common for food pantries to distribute non-perishable items such as canned goods and boxed items for storage reasons. Unfortunately, these products typically have a high-sodium /sugar content and lower nutritional value than fresh fruits and veggies. By registering on AmpleHarvest.org, your pantry clients will have the option to feed their family fresh food instead of food packaged with added salt and sugar thereby reducing the likelihood of diet related illness such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Yrecipe 2ou’ll also be offering a new variety of food for pantry clients to prepare. By having fresh produce available, families may be introduced to new varieties of food they may have had no prior access to.

Click here: www.AmpleHarvest.org/register to register your food pantry and be sure to check out our Pinterest page: http://www.pinterest.com/ampleharvestorg/fresh-food-recipes/ for some healthy recipe ideas!

Spring into Action – April is National Volunteer Month

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Volunteer ImageSince April is National Volunteer Month, I was asked to briefly write about volunteering and how important it is for people to get involved (in some way) with their charity of choice.   I do know a little something about this.  Before I started working for non-profit organizations, I volunteered for a very active organization for many years.  My passion for animals and adopting a pet from a shelter led me to volunteer for a local animal welfare organization because the need for help was great.  I’d like to think that my contribution to this organization was of value to the dedicated people who had taken on the huge task of running the organization.  I did things such as fostering animals at home, working fundraising events, administrative work, cleaning cages, socializing pets, attending meetings and being on committees.  Much of it was hard work but in return, I made some good friends, learned a lot about animal health/behavior, and I felt like I was contributing to something really important.  Charitable organizations, large and small, need donations without question, but there is also a need for people to give of their time and/or expertise.

An interesting fact about volunteering is that it can lead to employment which is how I landed my first job with a non-profit.  According to a 2013 study issued by the Corporation for National Community Service, volunteers have 27% higher odds of finding a job after being out of work than non-volunteers.  This may be due to volunteers gaining skills, experience and contacts which may lead to employment.

Volunteering as a Pathway to Unemployment

Since I have been on both sides of the volunteering fence, I would say that the best volunteer is one that can communicate his or her strengths to the organization’s volunteer coordinator.  Let this person know that you are good at carpentry, that you love making phone calls and talking to people or that you are a graphic design expert.  This will let them know how to best utilize you.  I have found that many people become disenfranchised with an organization because they were not put to work right away.  It’s very important that an organization responds quickly to inquiries by volunteers but people need to understand that many organizations become overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to be tackled daily.  Please, don’t give up on them; give them a call, follow-up with them.  By having a conversation, you both may come up with the perfect volunteer opportunity for you.  Lastly, unless an organization is looking for a supervisor, please see yourself as a worker bee – not the queen bee :)

How does a nationwide charitable organization like AmpleHarvest.org use volunteers?  AmpleHarvest.org is a web-based resource helping to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America while helping the environment; we don’t currently have volunteers working fundraisers and we don’t have volunteers transporting produce to food pantries.  Our volunteers are people who spread the word about our work to friends, family and in social media.  Letting people know that they have a resource to donate excess produce from their own gardens.  Our volunteers are those who download a flyer from our website to bring to their local food pantry – telling them why it’s so important to be listed on AmpleHarvest.org.  There are still thousands of food pantries in America who are not registered with AmpleHarvest.org.

In closing, without volunteers, many organizations would not exist.  Most are on a limited budget and cannot afford to pay salaries.  Please consider contributing your time or talent to a worthy cause.  If not, please donate money to a cause.  So much wonderful work is being done out there – be a part of it!  Try VolunteerMatch.org or allforgood.org to find volunteer opportunities in or around your community.  You’ll be glad you did!

Food Pantry Friday

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It’s Food Pantry Friday and today we’re welcoming more than 30 food pantries in cities and towns across the U.S that have registered on AmpleHarvest.org. When a pantry registers, they become “visible” to gardeners/growers in their community who are eager to share their excess harvest!
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Food pantries in the following cities and towns have recently registered on AmpleHarvest.org: Altoona, IA / Fairfield, PA / Fullerton, CA / Sheridan, AR / Providence, RI / Bloomington, IN / Sun Valley, CA / Independence, IA / Morrisvale, WV / South Amboy, NJ / Melbourne, FL / Philadelphia, PA / Perry, IA / Salineno, TX / Hartselle, AL / Wilkesboro, NC / North English, IA / Flagstaff, AZ / Mitchell, IN / Houston, TX / Oak Park, IL / Burgaw, NC / Wilkes-Barre, PA / Washington, DC and Alpine, AL

Food banks, food pantries, food cupboards, food closets and food shelves in communities across the country are invited to join AmpleHarvest.org and can register for FREE here: www.AmpleHarvest.org/register

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April is Volunteer Month

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Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. ~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu

volunteer-month1April is volunteer month. It’s an opportunity to recognize the good works being done on a daily basis by folks in communities across the country and a chance to celebrate even those small, random acts of kindness that go unnoticed but do make a difference.  It’s also a good time to reflect on how we might become more involved in our local communities and to realize we can impact the lives of others even with the smallest act of kindness.

About a month ago, a good friend encouraged everyone she knew to volunteer or do a random act of kindness to help celebrate her birthday. Often, most people think about themselves and the gifts they’ll be receiving on their birthday, so I thought it was a brilliant idea that she was asking friends to give to others in some way. I celebrated by volunteering a few hours at a local animal shelter. It may not seem like much, but I’m glad I chose to do something.Leanne headshot 1

I believe that random acts of kindness or spending a few hours volunteering, do make a difference and when added up, they can overwhelm the world. No doubt, there are definitely days when the world seems overwhelming in a not-so-good kind of way, but we always have two choices in how we react – we can become paralyzed and do nothing out of frustration or despair, or we can choose to do something…some little bit of good wherever we arelike helping a stranger we pass on the street, assisting the person in front of us at the grocery store, paying for the coffee for the next person in line, putting a coin in an expired parking meter, holding the door open for someone, or by sharing our abundance with our neighbors in need.

So we’re kicking off April by celebrating everyone who gives of their time and talents to make their communities and the world a little bit better off. We hope you’ll join us with your own random acts of kindness by donating fresh fruits or vegetables from your garden to a local food pantry whenever you can. You can find one near you by clicking here: www.AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry. No amount is too small to donate. The person(s) receiving your donation may not have had access to a fresh, healthy option without the generosity and kindness of your action!

You can also volunteer some of your time to help us spread the word about AmpleHarvest.org to food pantries and gardeners/growers in your community by visiting: www.AmpleHarvest.org/local

Together, one random act of kindness at a time, we can overwhelm the world!

acts of kindness

Food Pantry Friday

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Welcome to Food Pantry Friday – Every day established food pantries and hunger-relief agencies in cities and towns across the U.S. register for free on AmpleHarvest.org.  Food Pantry Friday is our way of welcoming those newly registered pantries who are eager to accept and distribute fresh produce to those in need in their local communities – it’s also a way for you learn something new about AmpleHarvest.org and how you can help!

Did you know that a food pantry does NOT need to have refrigeration in order to register on AmpleHarvest.org?no registration

You heard us right – a pantry does NOT need to have refrigeration to accept fresh produce donations! Here’s how it works…when a food pantry registers on AmpleHarvest.org, they complete a section called “donation times” and can dictate the days/times they would like to receive fresh produce donations from local gardeners. For example, if the food pantry is open on Tuesdays from 10am-12pm – the pantry gets to tell gardeners/growers that they will be accepting fresh produce donations on Tuesdays from 8am-9am. It’s about getting fresh food to the food pantry faster – when a gardener knows your donation times, they can harvest their vegetables and bring them to the pantry during those designated times and the produce is immediately distributed to those in need. In doing so, AmpleHarvest.org eliminates the step where produce donations are first taken to a warehouse where it might sit for a day until it gets to the pantry.pantry pic

Please share this information about AmpleHarvest.org with your local food pantry – the lack of refrigeration may be the only thing holding them back from registering and now they’ll know, it’s not necessary!

Backyard Chickens and Chicks – AmpleHarvest.org

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Backyard Chickens and ChicksEmily Fulmer is the Grower Outreach Coordinator at AmpleHarvest.org

Let me be the first to say that I’m no expert.  My approach to keeping backyard chickens is much like my my approach to gardening: do your research and then just jump in and learn as you go!  With both gardening and chicken keeping, I’ve had my ups and downs…and sometimes those downs overlap, like the time when my chickens managed to wiggle their way past the barriers I set up to keep them out of one of the garden beds. In a manner of minutes they destroyed the entire bed of garlic I had planted, and for a week the chickens wreaked of garlic!   We lost all of the garlic we were planning to eat for the next year and I was so frustrated! But, you live and learn and now my garden beds are totally chicken-proof…well, at least I think so.

It’s the time of year when eggs are hatching and families are bringing home baby chicks.  It’s a good time to start the adventure of backyard chicken keeping. It’s a fun and rewarding way to get closer to where your food comes from, to teach children about caring for animals, and of course, you just can’t beat those fresh eggs!  Whether you’re starting with chicks or with hens that are already laying, below are some helpful tips and resources to help you on your journey.

Starting with chicks:
When you’re buying baby chicks you are making a commitment to caring for them as pets or as food and it’s an important decision that takes some consideration. There may be some really cute baby chicks being given away at your child’s daycare or at the drug store around Easter time…even some that have been dyed green or pink and come with a matching baby bunny.  These are not the kinds of chickens that you want to invest in (not to mention the ethical issues of how these animals are treated). You should do your research and decide which breed is best for you and then either visit your local farm store to ask if they sell them or locate a reputable breeder and order your chicks in the mail.  Here’s a helpful link from www.MyPetChicken.com with information about various breeds, both for meat and for laying, with lots of facts and pictures

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Emily’s Buff Orpington chicks on their first visit outside.

 

If you live in a city, be sure to check out the laws or civic codes regarding chicken keeping.  Some cities have very strict regulations and others none at all. Here‘s a good place to start your research on laws about keeping chickens from www.UrbanChickens.org

Before your chicks arrive you’ll need to get some basic supplies like a brooder, heat lamp, and containers for food and water. You will want to keep them indoors until they get their feathers which will keep them warm and protected when they move outside.  Backyardchickens.com published this article on those first important weeks with baby chicks. And, don’t forget to get the right food for them..read about what kind of food they need at this stage and at all stages with this helpful article from the Chicken Chick.

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The chicken palace in Emily’s backyard with a little farmer checking on the chickens.

Housing your chickens and keeping them safe:
Once your chickens are ready to go outside they need a safe and secure place that will keep them protected from the elements and from predators.  Chicken coops come in all shapes and sizes (and prices!). If you’re handy you can find plans online like this one and build it yourself. Or you can buy a prefabricated coop and put it together yourself if you’re only slightly handy like me :)   This is my favorite article from Mother Earth News about this subject…it can really help you narrow down your choices, because believe me, the possibilities are endless.

First aid kit for your chickens:
Just like any family pet, chickens can get sick and need some medical attention. Some chicken owners spare no expense when it comes to their pet chicken’s health while others may feel weird about paying a vet bill for an animal that originally cost less than one dollar.  Where ever you land on this spectrum, it’s good to have a chicken first aid kit at home for when the occasional illness strikes.  Here’s a comprehensive list from Back Yard Poultry Magazine to give you some ideas about what to put in your chicken doctor bag.

DSC_0107Health problems and how to treat them:
The tricky thing with chickens is that they are really good at hiding their illness and it can be hard to catch something important before it’s too late. The best protection is prevention.  The more time you spend with your chickens, the better you will be able to tell when something is up.  If you’re handling your chickens every day you’ll notice any lumps, weight loss/gain, open wounds, cloudy eyes, sneezing, or even the rare bound egg.  Be sure to read over this article from Hobby Farms Magainze about chicken diseases so you are aware of what to look for and know what to do when you spot trouble:

Eggs Eggs Eggs:
Chickens are super fun to have around. They are cute and playful and they’ll eat right out of your hand! But, the best thing of all is that they provide super yummy eggs that you can collect and eat almost the whole year-round.  When keeping your own chickens you have control over what their lives are like. You can feed them organic food and let them roam as far as you care in order to create your own organic and/or “free-range” eggs.  When you’re in charge of everything you have the power to get cleaner, safer, and more delicious eggs, but there are some things to be aware of to make sure the eggs are safe to eat.  The “Chicken Chick” has these helpful tips for you.

Sometimes you’re just going to be up to your ears in eggs. So, what are you supposed to do with them?  Many food pantries will accept donations of fresh home-grown eggs. Big surprise, right? Just like you can donate your extra garden harvest to pantries in the AmpleHarvest.org network, many of them will also accept fresh eggs.  During long days of summer last year, my family went on a short trip veggie-photo-2.jpgand our house/chicken sitter didn’t eat any of the eggs so when we got back we had several dozen eggs more than we could handle. No matter how hard we tried we just couldn’t catch up (since the girls continued to lay!) so I took two dozen to my local food pantry.  Almost as soon as I set them down on the table at the pantry, they were gone.  The food pantry clients were THRILLED to be able to bring home eggs to feed their family and it felt good to know that they weren’t going to go to waste but toward a good cause.  You can find a food pantry near you at www.AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry.

Keeping chickens and raising chicks is really fun and easy.  There are countless magazines, websites, and community groups that will help you immensely as you start or continue this journey.  If you’re keeping chickens and sharing your extra eggs, let us know! Email your pictures to us at Ishared@ampleharvest.org, post them to our instagram page with the hashtag #ampleharvest, or on our facebook page.

Happy Spring!

“Underachiever” who invented electronic newsletter becomes nonprofit visionary

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Keynote speaker, once an “underachiever”, now a nonprofit visionary

Keynote Speaker Gary Oppenheimer is the Founder and Executive Director of AmpleHarvestorg

Keynote speaker Gary Oppenheimer is the Founder and Executive Director of AmpleHarvestorg

When I was a kid, I didn’t like going to school.  Too much energy and too little opportunity to burn it off.  Although I loved science and history, I did pretty poorly in most other subjects.  Indeed I was so bad in math that I thought “D” was a numeric grade.

I wanted to do the least amount of work necessary to keep me from being left back.  My parents were told I was a “gifted underachiever”, and although my many projects and interests may have suggested “gifted”, my report cards nearly always said “underachiever”

Once I was unleashed from school, I soldered a computer together in 1975 (still have it but I’m now afraid to turn it on), wrote and demonstrated a prototype email system in 1977, invented the electronic newsletter (and therefore possibly spam – sorry about that!) in 1985, and eventually dreamed up AmpleHarvest.org in 2009.

Clearly I was the poster child for school interfering with an education.

While I worked hard to do as little work as possible in school, AmpleHarvest.org has been the exact opposite.

An important part of my work is to be the evangelist for our vision and mission – to hopefully inspire people to be the agent for change in their community.  My goal is to be the small candle that sparks many others candles to fully illuminate the room and one of the best ways I’ve found to do that is through keynote speaking engagements.  AmpleHarvest.org’s potential is so robust that I’m never short of words – only time.

All too often, I’ve seen speakers who show up, speak and go home.  They probably did all their homework as a kid. I instead show up and speak, do a Q&A, meet with smaller groups, visit nearby food banks and food pantries, community groups, etc.  When I travel for a speaking event, I try to make the absolute most of my visit to an area.

As an example, a week ago, I was keynote speaker at Cultivate Iowa.  I also met with the Des Moines Area Religious Council and their food pantry, participated in the Iowa Food Systems Council board meeting, did a colloquium at Iowa State University for their graduate program, visited the offices of the World Food Prize, met with the Iowa Food Bank association along with the Food Bank of Iowa – all within a two day period.  I also managed to purchase tickets to Crosby Stills and Nash who reminded us to Teach our children well,…happened to be performing there!

Gary giving keynote speech at Temple University

Gary giving keynote speech at Temple University

A prior speaking engagement in Salt Lake City had me doing the keynote, meeting with students, touring the Bishop’s Storehouse (food bank of the Mormon Church), the Utah food bank, two food pantries, a community garden group, plus a meeting with the Utah director of Indian Affairs (we were working to get meetings set up with two Native American communities too).  All within two and a half days.

People often assume that AmpleHarvest.org would only be of interest to foodies and food bank people.  That’s like saying a radio can only play one station because it’s the one it’s tuned to.  In actuality, AmpleHarvest.org has a social responsibility component, along with environmental, faith and empowerment components and I’ve done speeches on all of them and more.

If your organization, university, food bank association, nonprofit, foundation, company, house of worship or club is looking for a speaker, and if your community has people who are hungry and people who didn’t know that they could help end that hunger, we should talk.  Check out the speaker page and then email us at mailto:info@AmpleHarvest.org.

All that pent-up energy that couldn’t be released while I was in school has finally found an outlet.