Q: What is AmpleHarvest.org?
A: AmpleHarvest.org (yes… that’s its real name … and it’s the web site too) is a 12 year old nationwide hunger/food waste nonprofit.
Q: Why focus on gardens?
A: All of the discussion of hunger and food waste has, up to now, revolved around farm to table movement of food. Farms produce much of what we eat, so this was a logical approach. Yet for 62 million families across America, in the growing season, they first turn to the backyard/roof top/community garden they’ve nurtured over the past spring, and eagerly await what is very often, a much larger bounty than they can use, preserve or share with friends.
Historically, we’ve all been told “jars, cans, boxes” at food drives and therefore presumed that they could not donate that surplus. Furthermore, gardeners also had no idea of where to find a local food pantry, nor the ideal day/time to donate. In reality, this was not a food problem but rather a missing information and misinformation problem. Because once the connection is made, the problem is permanently solved, our focus is on a sustained solution to hunger instead of simply responding to the fact that people are hungry. You can learn more about this here as well as the theory of change behind our work here.
Most gardeners, given the opportunity, will eagerly donate surplus food in much the same way that you’d donate your surplus clothing to a thrift shop. Every time a gardener learn that s/he can indeed donate surplus garden produce and is given the opportunity, it is one less person wasting food and one more hungry family having healthier food on their dinner table. The solution works in any/every community in America without the need for local representatives or volunteers or offices. And because the gardener takes the food themselves to the nearby food pantry, AmpleHarvest.org has no logistical overhead. At its heart, AmpleHarvest.org is a very local community program but on a nationwide scale.
AmpleHarvest.org is an award winning model/program including CNN Hero’s, Points of Light, a World Food Prize nomination and more, yet the real hero is the individual gardener who (deliberately or unintentionally) grows too much and donates it. All these gardeners need is an ample harvest and a big heart.
Today, we have nearly 8,000 participating food pantries in 4,200 communities across all 50 states. And its growing day by day.
Q: Could you share an example of AmpleHarvest.org making a difference?
A: One of our gardeners, Catherine Burton, shared her experience with us recently:
“I wanted to donate tomatoes from my garden. I researched and all food banks were open during the week. Finally located one open on Saturday so I could have my children go with me. The building was huge & I couldn’t find a door, but saw 2 gentlemen standing outside. I explained my mission & they said I was in the right place. They were delighted by my gift. They estimated my bag of tomatoes weighed 25 pounds! We talked for a while; about blessings and God. Turns out one building was a men’s shelter. It was a true Blessing for me and my children.”
We donated to Assumption Food Pantry and Shelter. Dayton, OH
Q: Can all home gardeners participate?
A: Yes. Any gardener with any size garden – from a handful of flowerpots with herbs to someone with a large backyard garden to someone with a plot in a community garden can and should be a part of this. The amount of donated food is irrelevant since your 2 tomatoes will be comingled with all of the tomatoes donated by other gardeners. No donation is too small … or too large.
Q: Are there other ways to help?
A: Yes. If you are not a gardener (or even if you are), donations to AmpleHarvest.org (visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/support) enable us to do all of this work. We are especially interested in corporate partnerships such as the one we have with Bonnie Plants or past campaigns with Dish Networks along with other companies. Because your donation is about repairing a hole in the food system rather than just feeding someone, the impact of your donation is ongoing. Check out www.AmpleHarvest.org/impact to see how a recurring $100 donation’s impact over 10 years grows to $90,257 of impact.
Lastly, your business can sponsor all of the food pantries in your state or you can sponsor individual food pantry listings in honor or memory of someone special. Or just because you’re a good cookie.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of AmpleHarvest.org?
A: It’s my hope that AmpleHarvest.org will eventually be at work in every community (today, it’s 4,200 communities) and will be so impactful that eventually, the misinformation and missing information problems will be deemed solved on a permanent basis. Every good nonprofit should find a problem, solve it, and then go home. That’s my dream.
Gary Oppenheimer is founder and Executive Director of AmpleHarvest.org