Most anyone who grows up in the mid-west knows the saying, “knee high by the 4th of July.” It describes the average size of corn this time of year. The saying came to mind last weekend as I looked at my family’s backyard garden. We aren’t growing any corn, but our other plants are looking lively. They’re not full grown and ready to harvest yet, but it won’t be too much longer. Of course it’s the same for all gardeners in this general latitude. And everyone knows what that means: zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes available for the taking in workplace kitchenettes, in church fellowship halls, from next door neighbors. So why is it that some are hungry at this time of year, when so many others have food to give away?
I recently spoke with Carol at an organization that’s trying to change that: AmpleHarvest. They are a national not-for-profit whose purpose is to connect gardeners who have excess produce with food pantries that can take it. Their website, AmpleHarvest.org, allows gardeners to search by location for nearby food pantries that accept fresh food. When I talked to Carol, she explained that they currently have almost 4000 food pantries registered… but there are some 30,000 in the U.S. So she asked if we could help with a couple of things:
1) If you are involved with a food pantry, ask them to register. It’s free, and all the panty has to do is fill out a short form on their website. The pantry can specify things like what types of produce they can accept, and what times of day or week they can take it. Since many of them don’t have refrigeration, this is important; they can’t store fresh food very long and may need people to pick it up fairly soon after they receive it.
2) If you are a gardener (or know someone who is), tell them about AmpleHarvest. Gardeners can go to the AmpleHarvest.org, enter their location, and see if there are any nearby pantries that will accept their surplus. (And the more pantries that register, the more luck gardeners will have using the site; see request 1.)
These seem like really simple yet helpful requests, so I pass them on to you. Please help! If you want to go a step further, the AmpleHarvest website has additional resources like fliers you can post at your local garden store. Together we can help ensure the bountiful harvest of summer and fall is eaten and not wasted.