The Reality of Hunger in America

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In August 2014, Feeding America published the results of it’s annual Hunger In America survey. You can read the full report here or watch a short video with the key findings here. The results–which knocked us flat on our faces–set the tone for the beginning of September which is Hunger Action Month.  Hunger Action Month is a nationwide campaign, organized by Feeding America, to mobilize the public to take action on the issue of hunger in America, to get involved, and to solve it. 

Starting in September, is “Going Orange” for Hunger Action Month and will be devoting all of our blog posts to the issue.  We encourage you to join us on this journey by getting involved in your community, and following along with us here on the blog.  Here’s a glimpse of the Hunger in America study’s findings to get you inspired for action:

  • One in seven Americans turns to the Feeding America network for food assistance. That’s 46.5 million people in the U.S., including 12 million children and 7 million seniors.
  • Feeding America client households frequently face difficult decisions in an effort to ensure they have sufficient food. Client households often survive on limited budgets and are confronted with choices between paying for food and paying for other essentials. These dilemmas can put households in the position of choosing between competing necessities. Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 10.40.22 AM

  • In addition to charitable nutrition assistance programs and making spending tradeoffs, many households also engage in a number of other coping strategies in order to feed their families.Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 10.41.56 AM makes it easier for home and community gardeners to address hunger in their communities by connecting them with their local food pantry when they have extra vegetables and fruits to share.  Working together we can increase the amount of fresh and healthy foods that are available at food pantries so that every American has the opportunity to choose healthy foods to feed their family. Be a part of the solution with us today.

Food Pantry Friday

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It’s Food Pantry Friday!  Notice what’s missing in this photo from a recently registered food pantry…Fresh produce! There are nearly 7,000 food pantries listed on – each and every one of them would love to receive and distribute extra produce from your garden to help nourish those in need. Remember that no amount is too small to donate! Please consider donating to a food pantry near you by finding one here:


This week we are welcoming newly registered pantries in the following cities and towns: Garland, TX / Casper, WY / Las Vegas, NV / Colton, CA / Nashport, OH / Clarksville, TN / Rome, GA / Larsen, WI / Savage, MN / New York, NY / Vienna, VA / Silver Spring. MD / Forestville, MD / Fort Washington, MD / Washington, DC / Ormond Beach, FL / Arlington, VA / Kansas City, KS / Westminster, CO / Suitland, MD / Ballwin, MO and Hayti Heights, MO.

Top 5 Food Blog Posts from

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Top 5 Food Blog Posts from

Based on your favorites and ours, we’ve put together at list of the top 5 food blog posts from the blog.  We’ve got gardening tips, food waste and food recovery stories, and since everyone seems to like them so much, we’ve even got some top 10 lists on our list!

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#5. “Here’s Why People Experiencing Homelessness Are Eating a Better Breakfast Than You Are” by John Murphy of Miriam’s Kitchen. One of the nation’s greatest hunger-relief agency respects the dignity of their clients by serving fresh food prepared by highly trained chefs.


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#4. “Top 5 Tips for Reducing Food Waste at Home” by Emily Fulmer of While most of the world’s food waste happens somewhere between the farm and point of sale, each of us can do our part to reduce food waste at home to help stem the flow.


Starting plants from seed provides a greater variety than can be found growing at the garden center


#3. “Starting Plants from Seed” by Joe Lamp’l of Growing a Greener World TV 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 Board of Directors


All the pantries registered at

#2. “Top 10 Reasons Why Every Food Pantry Should Be Registered at” by Leanne Mazurick of It may not be as clever as a David Letterman top-ten list, but here’s a top-ten list as to why every food pantry in the United States should be registered on and how YOU can help!

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#1 “Balcony Gardening with a 10 Umbrella Battalion” by Natalia G. You don‘t have to have a lot of space to grow an incredible garden.  This guest blogger shows us how it’s done with a little creativity and a 10 umbrella battalion.



Do you have a favorite blog post that didn’t make the list?  Tell us what YOU like to read and we’ll give you more of that next time on the blog.

Food Pantry Friday

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There are food pantries, there are farmers’ markets, and there are community gardens. For today’s Food Pantry Friday, we’re sharing a story about the amazing things that can happen when all three work together to address the hunger needs of their community.  This is a special guest post from Kelly Renfrow of the Johnston Partnership for a Healthy Community in Johnston, Iowa.


Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 9.28.58 AMFor the past 10 years St. Paul Presbyterian Church in Johnston, Iowa has hosted a community garden on the church property. What started as a space for church members to help grow and enjoy fresh produce for their own families has turned into a project in which all produce grown is donated to the Johnston Partnership for a Healthy Community which operates a local food pantry for those in need.

It is a beautiful sight when church members pull in and begin unloading the fresh produce harvested that week.  Tomatoes, green beans, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and radish are just a few of the colorful vegetables that are plucked from this beautiful space less than a mile from the food pantry.  Clients’ eyes light up when they see the wide selection of fresh vegetables they can select from that would otherwise be out of reach with their limited budgets.  They talk with each other about how to best prepare the bountiful harvest.

Screen shot 2014-08-15 at 9.27.07 AMAs the Johnston Partnership recognized the growing demand for fresh vegetables we implemented a program called Market to Pantry.  This is the second year we have asked Johnston Farmers Market vendors to donate extra produce at the end of the weekly market, which runs from May-September. This produce is also distributed through our food pantry and has been very successful. We received a grant this year that has allowed us to distribute coupons for our food pantry clients to “purchase” produce at the Johnston Farmers Market. It has been a win-win for clients and vendors.

Johnston is a thriving suburban community where poverty can sometimes go unnoticed.  Through these programs we are able to provide nutritious food while maintaining our clients dignity. This could not happen without the support of St. Paul and the Johnston Market vendors.

Kelly Renfrow, Board President
Johnston Partnership for a Healthy Community

White House Kitchen Garden Tour

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White House

View of the White House from the garden.

Last weekend I found myself standing in front of the most famous address in the US: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Washington, D.C.   I didn’t actually go inside, but I was able to see something pretty amazing on the front lawn.  My family and I took a tour of the White House Kitchen Garden.  What an inspiration!

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The White House Garden is L-shaped and consists of about 1,100 square feet of raised beds.

We walked from the East wing, down a long grassy hill, towards the garden. On our stroll we saw the small playground the President set up outside of the Oval Office so he could watch his daughters playing, and we passed a massive tent and stage that was being erected for the opening dinner of the African Leaders Summit. The staff was busy as bees, security was tight, and there we were waltzing across the lawn to go look at some vegetables. It was pretty surreal.

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The garden is beautiful and this was a great time to be visiting because the summer crops were still producing. Though, if we had been there about one week later we probably could have picked some figs from the tree at the edge of the garden.  That tree, like many of the plants in the garden, came from seeds Thomas Jefferson gathered and cultivated at Monticello.  Despite it’s famous genetic history, the fig tree almost didn’t make it. We were told that when it was just a little sapling, barely recognizable as a tree, it disappeared.  Apparently, some volunteers thought it was a weed and pulled it up and tossed it in the compost pile (yes, the White House garden has a compost pile).  When the director of the garden discovered the fig tree in the compost, he plucked it out and put it back in it’s place and it has done well ever since.  Seriously, I want those figs!

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Thomas Jefferson’s Fig Tree

Okay, to be honest, I want the whole garden.  It was beautiful. We walked down stone paths between raised beds spilling over with several kinds of basil, sweet potato vines, eggplants, purple peas, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, and carrots.  There was even a large section panted with the three sisters: corn, beans, and squash—all looking lush and healthy. There are about 55 different types of vegetables and about half of those are heirloom varieties.

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In 2011, along with American Indian and Alaskan Native youth, First Lady Michelle Obama planted the traditional 3 sisters together: corn, beans, and squash. The seeds for the 3 sisters garden were donated by the National Museum of the American Indian.

But, this is not just a vegetable garden.  There were also strawberries and raspberries and the most surprising of all, a papaya tree. I’m no expert, but even I know that papayas don’t normally grow in Washington, D.C.  Turning the corner quickly to go check it out, I saw behind some bushy tomato plants that this large, fruit-bearing papaya tree was in a big pot…not in the ground as I thought at first glance. It spends much of the year in a greenhouse somewhere out of sight but it was outside today in all its glory.

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As we started heading back toward the White House we stopped near a raised bed that was planted specifically for pollinators. We watched some bees go about their business on the flowers, then walked about 20 feet to where they were returning with their pollen.  The White House beehive, of course!  Hard at work, like the White House staff, they kept buzzing about with little notice of these awestruck visitors standing and staring.

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The White House Kitchen Garden provides food for the First Family as well as invited guests, and the extra produce is donated to Miriam’s Kitchen. That’s right, the White House does exactly what we’re asking you to do…share extra garden bounty with neighbors in need! This garden is also a teaching garden—a place where local school kids can come and dig in the dirt with the First Lady, learn about growing food and get excited about eating healthy.  Check out what Michelle Obama had to say about here.

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In it’s first year, the White House Kitchen Garden produced 740lbs of fruits and vegetables. Since then, row covers have been added for use in the cooler months to extend the harvest.

This garden is the first of it’s kind since Eleanor Roosevelt’s (very tiny) victory garden. I hope it remains here on the grounds permanently as an example to all that growing food, eating healthy, and sharing with those in need is a model that we all can adopt—in our backyards, community gardens, balconies, rooftops, and fields.

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If you don’t have a league of volunteers and the help of the National Parks Service to maintain your garden, you can find tips and resources here and, as always, when you have enough to share visit to find a food pantry near you that is desperate for fresh food to feed their clients.

To learn more about touring the White House Kitchen Garden, click here.

Here are some more pictures from our visit:

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Here’s a milkweed plant in the pollinator’s section of the garden

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I was so jealous of the squash beds. The vine borers destroyed my entire crop this year!

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The White House Garden’s compost pile!

Food Pantry Friday

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It’s Food Pantry Friday – this week we are welcoming newly registered pantries in the following cities and towns that are eager to receive and distribute your fresh produce donations: Danbury, CT / Twin Falls, ID / San Antonio, TX / Bethesda, MD / Uniondale, NY / Orange, MA / Peachtree City, GA / Farrell, PA / Stafford, TX / San Marcos, TX / Hempstead, NY / Cream Ridge, NJ / Shirley, NY / Sterling, CO / Manassas, VA / Mohegan Lake, NY / New Brunswick, NJ / Thornton, CO / Miami, FL / Lancaster, OH / Harker Heights, TX and Nampa, ID.


If your garden is producing more than you can use, freeze or preserve – please find a food pantry here: and share your abundance with those in need!


Balcony Gardening with a 10 Umbrella Battalion –

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This is a guest post by one of our Instagram friends.  I was so impressed by the pictures of her balcony garden that I asked her to share a little bit about what she’s growing and how. It’s a great story and an inspiration to anyone who thinks they don’t have enough space to garden.  You don’t have to live in the country or the suburbs to have a great garden…and one that produces enough food to share with those in need. This is Natalia’s story:

Balcony Gardening with a 10 Umbrella Battalion
By Natalia G.

nat headshotMy name is Natalia, and I am originally from South Pasadena CA. Right now I live outside of Washington DC, and my life is filled with working, going to school and raising my son Alex. But my hobby is-you guessed it – balcony gardening!

Let me start by saying that several years ago, I had absolutely no experience with gardening at all, and it began completely by accident. My third floor balcony is only 45 square feet, and for the first two years that I lived here I rarely even went out on it, let alone think of growing something.  One day while shopping, I stumbled upon some catnip seeds, and thought it would be an awesome treat for my cat Percy.  I bought a pot, a bag of miracle grow soil, and planted them that night. Yet the more eagerly I awaited them to sprout, the more…nothing happened. Almost two weeks later, after I came to terms with the catnip fail and not wanting to waste a pot of soil, I halfheartedly stuck two very old mammoth sunflower seeds (randomly found at the bottom of an old tool box) into the pot of soil and forgot about them. To my astonishment, several days later, I was amazed to discover two tiny sprouts stretching towards the sun. And so it began. The sunflowers grew at least an inch a day. Soon, they were taller than my apartment roof, and I was harvesting two bowls full of seeds! (Oh, and the catnip finally did decide to emerge, so I called it “Frankenstein in a pot”).

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Percy and his catnip

Fast forward two years, and I can now proudly say that I have a pretty successful balcony garden. I currently have: cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes,  Chinese lanterns,  eggplant, green onion, chamomile,  lavender, catnip, chives, 3 kinds of dill, cat grass, parsley, cilantro,  habaneros, chilies, jalapeños,  strawberries, ghost peppers, carrots, and  basil. I found a series of amazing pots at Wal-Mart: they have a little opening at the bottom so that you can see how much water the plant has, also allowing the plant to draw it in as needed, and not needing to put the pot up on “feet.” These pots come in various shapes and sizes, and are very sturdy, affordable, and come in pleasant colors. I tend to water either before sunrise or after sunset, but sometimes in the late afternoon. For soil I use miracle grow, and for the fertilizer “Jobe’s Organics Vegetable and Tomato” which I bought at Home Depot. It smells awful but is amazing! (I only use it once a month on all my plants.)

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Some habaneros from the balcony garden

I find that I can pretty much grow anything I want since my balcony gets at least eight hours of sunlight each day, although I do use my umbrellas to shade plants requiring less sun, especially herbs. The great thing is that I don’t have to stop growing after summer is over! In late august I plant leeks and kale which don’t mind a little snow, and in the fall I plant garlic to harvest in the spring. Although it doesn’t need constant care it’s nice to know something is growing out there in the cold!

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Part of the umbrella battalion

I found that gardening is a work in progress. My mistakes and victories are closely intertwined together, but that’s part of the fun! In the winter I carefully draw out grandiose plans only get a nature reality check once everything starts growing. While the plants are small I have to cover them up with umbrellas (my balcony is not covered) so that the rain will not harm them. Neighbors smile in amusement seeing me standing out there in the pouring rain, setting up my 10 umbrella battalion, whenever a random storm would strike. When I start seeding in early March, I must ban Percy and Felix, my two cats, from my bedroom so that they don’t destroy the seedlings. This does not sit well with them. Finally, in the summer, I have to fight beetles and aphids by drowning them in soapy water by hand, or spraying with an organic spray, praying it will not harm my plants.

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A handful of cherry tomatoes from the balcony garden

Yet all of this is worth it, as I am sitting here with a cup of tea, eating cherry tomatoes from my bush as I’m writing this blog. Everything is so vibrant, so green, so beautiful! A few of my neighbors even shook my hand in the past few months complementing me – can you believe it? I’ve actually inspired several to start growing as well, because they see that it is possible.  I’m not going to lie, however, and say that it’s a piece of cake, because having a balcony garden requires daily attention, research and hard work. To some degree I find that it is probably a bit trickier than growing in the ground, because you need to accurately predict how much soil your plants will need in order to use your space most efficiently. But it’s not impossible.

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Tomatoes, eggplant, and Felix the cat.

The best recipe for success is trial and error, because when you see something isn’t going right, you can always change what you’re doing to accommodate the plant (replant in a bigger pot, thin, support, etc.)  But the payoff will be worth the trouble, I promise! The chilies, lavender, and catnip that I harvest and dry last me all winter (by the way the catnip is MAGICAL. Completely different from store bought.) I never have to buy tomatoes—and we eat a lot of them. As a matter of fact, I can barely keep up between the two bushes. And I always have fresh herbs to use in the kitchen. Some days I produce so much I even share with my neighbors! My biggest advice would be to just go for it, and not get discouraged if something doesn’t go as planned. I like to think if it this way: nature is on your side- plants want to grow. You’re just helping them along :)

To see more pictures of her garden, follow Natalia on Instagram: @natsbalconygarden

Nationwide (Fresh) Food Drive

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farmers market

The USDA’s nationwide food drive, Feds Feed Families, hit the road last week for an awesome event in Memphis, TN at the Agricenter International‘s Farmers’ Market.  I had the pleasure of stopping by to catch some of the action and meet some of the amazing folks behind the Feds Feed Families campaign.  As you may know, has teamed up with FFF this year to help encourage federal employees–who might also be gardeners–to donate their extra fresh veggies and fruits to their local food pantry.  But, there are many ways for federal employees (and others) to ramp up the amount of FRESH food that is collected during this nationwide food drive, and in Memphis last week, we got pumped up about what we can do!

Karen ComfortKaren Comfort, FFF National Program Manager, gave the rallying cry to fill empty shelves at food distribution centers across America, reminding us that this time of year, supply goes down while demand increases. Julius Johnson, Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture, encouraged us to visit one of over 140 farmers markets across the state to shop for ourselves and even buy extra to donate to share with those in need.  Nathan Dryden, Program Coordinator for the Society of St. Andrew, Tennessee reminded us that there are millions of pounds of produce in fields and orchards that can be gleaned and donated to help feed the hungry. In 2013 alone, the Society of St. Andrew harvested 32.3 million pounds of food that would have been thrown away.  And, to drive it all home, David Stephens, of the Mid-South Food Bank pleaded for help.  He said the summer is the worst time of year for the food bank.  Their inventory is down by more than 30% but their 237 partner agencies, across 31 counties, are asking for more food because more people are in need.

MSFB truck

It was easfarmers market aisley to be inspired. Before the event began, I strolled through the market aisles filled with colorful fruits and vegetables. I bought a fresh squeezed lemonade (because, it’s Memphis and it’s July) and saw people filling donation bins with food from the market. The FFF food drive is a great opportunity to get involved in feeding our nation’s hungry. Let the FFF campaign inspire you to get involved. Even if you’re not a federal employee, you can make a difference. Whether you’re growing, gleaning, or buying extra at a farmers market to share, you are helping to feed our nation’s hungry.

As always, you can find a food pantry near you at








Food Pantry Friday

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It’s Food Pantry Friday and today we are welcoming food pantries in the following cities and towns that have recently registered on Caldwell, ID / Danbury, CT / Reno, NV / Hempstead, NY / Kuna, ID / Cary, NC / Blackfoot, ID / Birmingham, AL / Star, ID / Culdesac, ID / Bearsville, NY / Madison, WI / Toms River, NJ / Columbus, GA / Bay Shore, NY / Houston, TX and West Islip, NY.


Fresh produce donation by the New Jersey Youth Corp of Phillipsburg’s Garden to the NORWESCAP Food Bank

Please let gardeners in your community know that they can donate their extra fruits and vegetables to a local food pantry. Local pantries can be found by visiting:

Chocolate Covered Broccoli – Healthy Food Gets a Bad Rap

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rachel apple picking

Rachel Dlugash, Guest Blogger and Senior Research Data Manager at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Chocolate Covered Broccoli – By Rachel Dlugash

We all need to eat healthy, but unfortunately our current food system makes unhealthy food much more appealing than healthy food. One of the hardest hurdles for people that are addicted to food, unlike smoking, drugs or other addictions where they should be completely removed from their life, is that people trying to eat less still need to eat, they just need to eat smarter. And healthy food has traditionally had the reputation of being worse tasting, but you eat it because it is better for you. Similarly, computer games have been shown to have remarkable cognitive benefits, but games that are geared towards education or health benefits are viewed as not fun. And even when researchers try to make them fun, they do not have the popularity of games created by the gaming industry, instead they are described as chocolate covered broccoli – something healthy trying to pose as something tasty. A continual challenge in the nutrition field has been to try to show that healthy foods are tasty.

As an Intern at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), I worked on a project to organize a panel of speakers about neurogaming.   The International Neuroethics Society held a program called “Neurogaming: What’s Neuroscience and Ethics Got to Do With It?”. When games that can read your brain waves to determine what interests you and then adapt the game in real time accordingly are already in the pipeline, it is easy to see why it could cause ethical concerns. Can you imagine if fast food companies were able to use this technology, or to access this brain wave data to better target their advertising?   This would be a huge blow to marketers of fresh and healthy foods.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 10.00.13 AMUnfortunately, advocates of healthy eating do not have the money to promote nutritious foods the way that the commercial food industry giants have, both to create the marketing campaigns, and to do the research to understand what will make their marketing campaign most effective. I always enjoyed the “Got Milk?” campaigns, and although the advertising agency that introduced this phase almost didn’t because they thought it was lazy and grammatically incorrect, it turned out to be highly successful. Instead of focusing on the health benefits, they focused on making drinking milk cool, and the campaign has over 90% awareness in the US. Not bad for the California dairy industry, who do not have the budget of Coca Cola or PepsiCo.

I was encouraged the other day when I ran passed a lady talking on her phone, eagerly describing how delicious what she was eating was. She said it was raw green beans, and that they were tastier than she could have ever imagined. In the beautiful summer months, the variety of fruits and vegetables are plentiful and this is when needs all gardeners to bring any produce they can to their local food pantries, so that we can let the flavors of the fruits and vegetables advertise themselves.