What We Do The AmpleHarvest.org Campaign is a national effort utilizing the Internet that enables 40+ million Americans who grow food in home gardens to easily donate their excess harvest to registered local food pantries spread across all 50 states.
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Q. What exactly is the AmpleHarvest.org campaign?
A. It is a nationwide effort to diminish hunger in America by making it easy for millions of backyard gardeners across the country to quickly find local food pantries eager to receive freshly picked crops for their clients. AmpleHarvest.org enables gardeners to find food pantries within a specified distance of their home and then view the pantries desired day/time for receiving donations.
AmpleHarvest.org also displays personalized driving instructions to the pantry as well as (if provided) a photograph of the pantry - making it easier to find.
Lastly, for the benefit of gardeners during a non-growing season or anyone else interested in making a donation, AmpleHarvest.org also provides pantries the opportunity to list store bought items they are in particular need of.
Although there are a number of excellent programs that help farmers and community gardens get produce to food banks, AmpleHarvest.org is a national campaign focused on helping local gardeners find neighborhood food pantries.
Q. What is the difference between a food bank and a food pantry?
A. Food Banks are large scale operations that collect and distribute food and other household items to local food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. Food Pantries are local walk-in facilities where families in need go to get food. (Note: In some parts of the country, what we are calling a "food pantry" is instead referred to as a "food shelf", "food closet", "food cupboard", "food share" or even "food bank". For the sake of simplicity, AmpleHarvest.org uses only the terms "Food Bank" and "Food Pantry"). The typical food pantry operates out of a local house of worship or other civic building. Most of the foods distributed by the pantries are packaged, canned or dry goods. Refrigeration is usually limited to dairy items such as milk and cheese. Produce is rarely available.
Q. How many food pantries are there in the country?
A. No one knows for sure. According to a study by FeedingAmerica.org, in 2006, there were 29,674. By some estimates, there may now be more than 40,000.
Whatever the number, it is too large.
Q. Why don't pantries offer fresh produce?
A. Unlike supermarkets that get deliveries from food wholesalers daily assuring that you'll get fresh produce, food banks and other sources do less frequent deliveries of food to pantries. As such, lettuce or tomatoes that looked great on Monday when the food bank got them would be pretty limp or mushy a week later when finally delivered to the local food pantry.
Backyard gardeners however can harvest their produce and deliver it to the pantry on the same day. Furthermore, if the pantry clients pickup the produce that same day, they will benefit from eating food that is even fresher than what can be purchased at a food store.
Q. Why do gardeners grow more food they can use?
A. In an ideal world, gardeners would plant only enough to satisfy the needs of themselves and their friends. The reality of gardening (and farming in general) is that all sorts of things beyond the control of the gardener influence the ultimate size of the harvest. In a growing season with lots of sun, adequate rain, no late or early frosts, no serious pest problems (small pests such as fungus, pests a bit larger such as insects, pests a lot larger such as ground hogs or rabbits, and very large pests such as deer) etc, the grower gets a larger harvest. If however, any of the above appear (more often than not, several can appear at the same time), the harvest is significantly reduced.
Because the gardener never quite knows how good (or bad) the growing season will be, they usually grow more plants than they need--just in case a fungus laden insect traveling in the fur of a deer sized ground hog attacks the garden. The result is that if one or more of these bad things do not attack the garden, the harvest can easily exceed the needs of the grower.
AmpleHarvest.org exists to insure that the extra produce gets to food pantries instead of being left to rot in the garden.
Q. I don't garden/am not gardening right now... can I still contribute?
A. Not everyone gardens and gardeners do not garden all the time. Food pantries need fresh produce - but they also need a variety of store bought items all year long.
Pantries are encouraged to add information to their AmpleHarvest.org page listing store bought items they are most in need of (they may also list items they don't need!). If the pantry you found has listed store bought items they need, buy what you can afford on your next shopping trip (or check your kitchen cabinets) and drop them off at the pantry at the day/time they listed for donations.
Please check the expiration date on the items you are bringing to the pantry (from your home or from a store). Even canned good expire. Food pantries do not distribute, and will dispose of food past its expiration date.
Q. I think this is a great idea... how can I help?
A.Key to the success of the AmpleHarvest.org campaign is public awareness.
As more pantries AND gardeners learn about it, more food will find its way from backyard gardens to the kitchens of those who need it most
And you can help.
iPhone / iTouch app User Questions
Q. Why an iPhone / iTouch app?
One reason is that there are times when an iPhone/iTouch owning gardener suddenly realizes that they grew far more than they had expected. Why should they have to go indoors to their computer to find a pantry, when their iPhone/iTouch can do the trick just as well?
But the more exciting reason is that the app opens the opportunity for anyone, gardener or not, to find a food pantry when a special opportunity presents itself. For example.... you are shopping and suddenly find a wonderful sale on canned fish or toiletries in the supermarket. The iPhone / iTouch app gives you the opportunity to quickly determine which of the area food pantries have expressed a need for that item. Instead of just donating whatever you have in your cupboard to the next local food drive, you'll be able to donate those items most needed by the pantry.
Q. What do I do if AmpleHarvest.org does not list any food pantries in my neighborhood?
A. Your help can be critical here.
Food pantries are often "under the radar"--they do not have a web site, signs on the front door, or yellow page listing. That is why we created AmpleHarvest.org, to make it possible to find a pantry in your neighborhood.
If we do not list a pantry in your area, please help us find one. How? See if a place of worship or other civic organization in your community has one. Call your regional food bank (www.feedingamerica.org can help you find it) and ask them if they can help you.
Once you do find one, contact them to see if they'll accept your produce. ALSO, please ask them to visit www.AmpleHarvest.org or print out www.AmpleHarvest.org/pantry.pdf and give it to them. You can also ask them to contact the other nearby food pantries to let them know about AmpleHarvest.org. If they are not Internet savvy, you may want to help them register on AmpleHarvest.org.
Once they are registered, the next backyard gardener in your area looking to share their bounty will not experience the problems you did.
Q. I love the idea of sharing my produce, what do I do once I have found a pantry?
A. First and foremost, see if a preferred delivery day of the week and time of day is listed. It is important to adhere to the pantries scheduling information if they provide it so as not interfere with their operations. If no day/time is listed, call or email them to find out when they would like you to deliver the produce.
On the day of your planned delivery, harvest your crops in the early morning while they still have some of the coolness of the evening air. If they have dew, wipe them dry with a paper towel. Each item should be visually inspected for serious bruising, insect damage, and ripeness. Do not donate produce that you would not buy for your own family. Produce that is overripe, has mushy spots, or is seriously blemished should either be made into a soup, stew, or go into a compost pile but not donated. (Note, if you used any pesticide on your garden, please take the time to clean each piece of produce as recommended by the pesticide manufacturer on the label before you let anyone eat it.)
Next, unless they have given you other instructions, package your produce in paper supermarket bags and take them to the pantry at the requested time. If you find the pantry convenient to get to, you can continue to share your produce with them through the rest of the growing season. Alternatively, you may decide to go back to AmpleHarvest.org next time and select a different pantry - spreading your produce over several pantries.
Whichever way you choose to do it, it will be greatly appreciated. Lastly, please remember to let your fellow gardeners know about AmpleHarvest.org, so they can share the bounty of their garden at their harvest time.
Q. I have "a lot" of tomatoes but only "a handful" of cucumbers, should I bother to bring them?
A. Yes! The produce you bring will be pooled with that of other backyard gardeners in your area. For all you know, the next gardener might bring only 3 tomatoes and two bags of cucumbers.
Remember, the key thing is that food should not be wasted, especially when so many Americans are having a hard time feeding their families.
Your bounty, large or small, will help to diminish hunger in America.
Q. Do the pantries care if I grow organically?
A. Most do not - they are perfectly happy with fresh produce, organic or not. HOWEVER, you may want to let the pantry know if you use organic methods in case one of their clients prefers it. Having said that, if you do grow organically, you will harvest healthier food with without depleting the earth as much.
Q. Growing season is over... can I still donate to a food pantry?
A. Pantries need your help all year long. Visit AmpleHarvest.org to see if your local pantry has listed any store bought items that they are in particular need of. Any donations will help.
Q. Would you like to know if I shared my garden bounty?
A. We'd love to know about it. Send an email to IShared@AmpleHarvest.org and let us know how much produce you were able to share. You might also want to visit our Facebook page and post the information there too.
There is no need to identify yourself if you don't want to, simply sign it with your initials and your city and state.
Q. I know about a food pantry that is not on AmpleHarvest.org, what should I do?
A. Just because you know about the pantry does not mean that other backyard gardeners in your area also know about it.
Please make every effort to inform the pantry about AmpleHarvest.org. The key to success of the campaign is to have as many food pantries as possible listed on the site.
The best thing to do is either to visit the pantry and suggest that they go to www.AmpleHarvest.org to list their pantry, or if they do not have Internet access, print out the pantry information in the green box on the left and give it to them. They may need your help to actually do the registration. Please remind them that there is absolutely no cost or obligations involved with listing on AmpleHarvest.org.
Q. What happens if someone becomes ill after eating something I donated to a food pantry?
A. You are protected by the Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act signed during the Clinton administration. The Act is intended to encourage donations of food to nonprofit organizations while providing the donor with "Good Samaritan" protection. You are provided protection from criminal and civil liability providing you did not exhibit gross negligence. The text of the act is at www.usda.gov/news/pubs/gleaning/appc.htm