A Quick Look at AmpleHarvest.org


About AmpleHarvest.org

“AmpleHarvest.org is the answer to the classic ‘excess supply not reaching the demand’ dilemma that has up to now resulted in vast amounts of food wasted in millions of gardens across America while the needy in the community remained malnourished and hungry”

Gary Oppenheimer, Nov 2010

 

Note: Our 2015 annual report is available here.

Summary:
AmpleHarvest.org is not a food program per se.

Rather, it is unique nationwide resource that is eliminating the waste of food, the outcome being a reduction in hunger and malnutrition along with an improved environment. It is accomplished by utilizing the Internet to enable 42 million Americans who grow food in home/community gardens to easily donate their excess harvest to one of 8,015 registered local food pantries spread across all 50 states. These food pantries help nourish the one out of six Americans (including a quarter of all kids under six ) that rely on these pantries..

Background:
When AmpleHarvest.org web site was first released in May of 2009, approximately 38 million Americans were listed as food insecure (defined as people who either do not have enough or are at real risk for not having enough food for their family).

According to US government statistics released only six months later, that number increased to nearly 49 (and now more than 50) million people, or one out of every six Americans; this despite the fact that America looses/wastes almost 100 billion pounds of food a year, or about one pound per person per day according to the New York Times.

These people often rely on one of the estimated 33,500+ local food pantries in America to help meet the nutritional needs of their families. (Note…. in some parts of the country, a food pantry is referred to as a food shelf, food closet, food cupboard or food bank)

In most communities a food pantry is typically located in a house of worship or similar community building. Usually run by volunteers, these pantries are the final distribution point for food and household items (such as toiletries, diapers, paper goods, etc.) available to those most needing it. Although they are in nearly every community in the country, people in the area who do not need assistance from the food pantry rarely where it is located.

Food pantries receive the bulk of the food they distribute from periodic deliveries provided by large regional warehouse operations called food banks. The majority of these food banks are part of a nationwide network operated by Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org).

Unlike your local supermarket whose daily food deliveries allows it to stock and sell fresh produce, the less frequent deliveries by food banks means that only canned fruit and vegetables can usually be provided to most food pantries.

Because canned vegetables are often processed with extra salt and fruit with a sugary syrup, either of which can contribute to future health problems (high weight or blood pressure, diabetes, etc), some writers have suggested that the availability of fresh produce at food pantries through AmpleHarvest.org may help to lower the future health care costs in America.

While over 50 million Americans are food insecure, more than 42 million Americans, according to the National Gardening Association, grow vegetables, fruit and herbs in their backyard, rooftop, patio and windowsill gardens.

A typical gardener plants their seeds or seedlings and then eagerly waits to begin the harvesting. As the growing season progresses, there will often be a far larger harvest than the gardener can use, preserve or give away to friends.

Historically, most gardeners have disposed of the excess produce, composted it, or left it to rot in their garden.

AmpleHarvest.org provides these gardeners with the opportunity to instead easily find a local food pantry within a specified driving distance that is eager for their garden bounty.

A gardener overwhelmed with a bountiful harvest can go to AmpleHarvest.org to find pantry on the Find A Pantry page. They simply enter their home address or zip code and the number of miles they are willing to travel to a pantry.

AmpleHarvest.org displays a listing of food pantries, sorted by distance, along with a Google map.

Once the pantry has been selected, AmpleHarvest.org displays the desired day[s] of the week and time[s] of day when the pantry can accept donations. It will also show a photograph of the pantry (if provided) along with Google driving instructions from the gardener’s location to the food pantry.

Gardeners who share their garden bounty with a food pantry are encouraged to email [email protected] to let us know what and how much was donated.

Donating through AmpleHarvest.org is not limited just to backyard gardeners. Millions of Americans grow tomatoes, cucumbers, berries and other foods on their patio or rooftop. Even urban dwellers find that they can easily grow herbs (fresh chives, parsley, mint, and other herbs are particularly appreciated by pantry clients) in windowsill gardens. Lastly, many food pantries use AmpleHarvest.org to list those store bought items (canned foods, paper goods, toiletries, etc.) they are most in need of, making AmpleHarvest.org helpful to shoppers as well as gardeners.

AmpleHarvest.org is an opt-in registry – only those pantries that choose to participate or are registered by their managing food bank will appear. Since most food pantries find that the garden produce is quickly taken by their clients – often within hours of delivery by the gardeners, refrigerated storage at the pantry is rarely an issue. Food pantries, almost always struggling to meet an ever growing need for food assistance, greatly appreciate the community support AmpleHarvest.org enables them to receive.

AmpleHarvest.org continues to reach out to food pantries across the nation, encouraging them to take advantage of the generosity of the local gardeners. The outreach is done through the food banks, service and faith organizations as well as social networking such as Twitter and Facebook. Several emailable and faxable informational fliers for food pantries are available here. Anyone who knows of a food pantry in their community is strongly encouraged to forward the appropriate flier to the food pantry manager for their review.

At the same time, AmpleHarvest.org continues to encourage millions of gardeners across America to visit the site to find a local food pantry and to be generous with their donations when they harvest their gardens. The outreach to the gardeners is done on the Internet (thanks to a very generous grant from Google.com), Master Gardeners nationwide, and social networking such as Twitter and Facebook. Lastly, we encourage everyone to post a one page flier available here in their local garden shop, supermarket bulletin board or in any other conspicuous location to help inform those gardeners who have not yet heard about AmpleHarvest.org.

Although many Americans are themselves suffering from economic difficulties, AmpleHarvest.org enables gardeners to help diminish hunger in their community by reaching into their back yard instead of their back pocket.


The Impact

  • Currently, 8,015 food pantries across all 50 states are registered to receive a sustainable and recurring supply of freshly harvested, locally grown food (many for the first time) from area growers – for free!
  • Since its launch in 2009, growers across all 50 states have donated tens of millions of pounds of fresh that would have been lost to waste were instead donated to a nearby food pantry for the first time.
  • Millions of pantry clients can 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.
  • A decreased risk of childhood obesity and the likelihood that they will carry healthy eating into adulthood.
  • Gardeners across America enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping their neighbors in need by reaching into their backyard instead of their back pocket.
  • Families are introduced to new varieties of food they may have had no prior access to.
  • Pantries are able to reduce their carbon footprint as they source more food locally. They decrease the amount of disposable packages or cans that have been trucked across the country.
  • The community waste stream is reduced (taxes too!) as excess food is donated instead of being thrown away thereby also reducing methane emissions (a climate change) at trash dumps.
  • All this occurs with an extremely high return on investment