Food For Thought An estimated 100 billion pounds of food, enough to totally eliminate hunger, is thrown away annually in the United States. It does not have to be this way - and you can help. Your support of the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign helps many more food pantries receive fresh produce - improving community health while also helping the environment.
The AmpleHarvest.org Story
One out of six Americans (including a quarter of all kids under six ) does not have access to healthy fresh food at their food pantry. AmpleHarvest.org is a national effort utilizing the Internet that enables 42 million Americans who grow food in home gardens to easily donate their excess harvest to one of 7,506 registered local food pantries spread across all 50 states.
Shortly after I became the director of the Sustainable West Milford Community Garden in late 2008, I learned that some of our garden plot holders -- like millions of backyard gardeners nationwide -- left large amounts of their garden produce unharvested when they grew more than they could possibly use.
Aware that hunger is a problem in our community, I suggested that we created a committee that would help to gather this extra food and deliver it to local food pantries. The program was named Ample Harvest West Milford.
Food pantries however were hard to find, in large part because most operate without an Internet site or yellow page listing. Google for example listed the nearest food pantry as being in a town 25 miles away, even though our own town had several of them. And it turns out this same challenge was faced by backyard gardeners nationwide wishing to share their bounty.
To address this dilemma, I created AmpleHarvest.org, new supply side channel in our national food network that would educate, encourage and enable gardeners with extra produce to easily donate to a local food pantry. AmpleHarvest.org gives food pantries the opportunity to register themselves in a central nationwide directory so that gardeners and other donors can share their fresh produce and, garden-by-garden, help diminish hunger in America.
Since it's rollout in May 2009, AmpleHarvest.org has continued to grow.
In August 2009, the National Gardening Association partnered with AmpleHarvest.org to help inform it's members of the opportunity to donate garden produce.
In October 2009, the 1,000th food pantry registered on the site.
In December 2009, at the recommendation of United Way, AmpleHarvest.org started providing United Way resource information for needy individuals to came to the site.
In January 2010, AmpleHarvest.org released a free iPhone app to making it easier than ever to find a local food pantry.
In February 2010, AmpleHarvest.org was invited by the US Department of Agriculture to become a partner organization to the USDA Peoples' Garden Initiative, a nationwide effort to encourage community gardens that benefit the community and incorporate sustainable practices.
In May 2010, AmpleHarvest.org was highlighted on CNN, and AmpleHarvest.org founder Gary Oppenheimer named CNN Hero.
In August 2010, AmpleHarvest.org was highlighted on the United We Serve web site - to encourage people around America to help add food pantries and inform local gardeners.
Also in August 2010, as part of its effort to diminish the environmental impact of food waste, AmpleHarvest.org was listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a food rescue resource.
In November 2010, AmpleHarvest.org founder Gary Oppenheimer was named
Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving 2010, AmpleHarvest.org created a campaign to encourage people to replace the floral table arrangements on their Thanksgiving tables with one made of whole fruit instead, which would then be donated to a local food pantry the next day.
In February 2011, as party of AmpleHarvest.org's effort to do the most "good" with the least environmental impact, AmpleHarvest.org upgraded to an Internet Service Provider powered 100% by wind power.
In March 2011 AmpleHarvest.org was endorsed by the National Council of Churches thereby helping more of the food pantries in churches across America learn about and participate in the effort.
In April 2011 AmpleHarvest.org released its Android app to accompany the previously released iPhone app.
In May 2011 AmpleHarvest.org announced a special outreach effort in the tornado ravaged Tuscaloosa Alabama subsequently Joplin Missouri areas) to help improve both the immediate and long term availability of fresh produce for those impacted by the tornado.
In May 2011 AmpleHarvest.org marked its two year anniversary. Currently, there are 7,506 food pantries across America already registered on AmpleHarvest.org. You can view a nationwide map of all registered food pantries by clicking here.
In June 2011 the AmpleHarvest.org web site was completely overhauled to make it even easier to use while giving it a newer, fresher look.
In July 2011 the 4,000th food pantry registered at AmpleHarvest.org.
In July 2011, AmpleHarvest.org partnered with Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative with the common goal of creating a healthier America. While Let's Move! encourages people to eat healthier food, AmpleHarvest.org actually makes it happen for millions of people who othwise don't have access to it.
In September 2011, Google quadrupled its advertising grant to $480,000 per year as part of their support of AmpleHarvest.org. AmpleHarvest.org was also named top ten finalist in the Stay CLASSY Awards program.
In October 2011, AmpleHarvest.org won the Glynwood "2011 Wave of the Future" award
In October 2011, AmpleHarvest.org founder Gary Oppenheimer was named "Huffington's Post "Game Changer for 2011".
In November 2011, PBS's "Growing A Greener World" focusing on AmpleHarvest.org was released to PBS stations nationwide.
In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving 2011, AmpleHarvest.org rolled out its "Centerpieces for Pantries" campaign to encourage people to replace the floral table arrangements on their Thanksgiving tables with one made of whole fruit instead, which would then be donated to a local food pantry the next day.
In December 2011, AmpleHarvest.org founder Gary Oppenheimer was invited to the White House both for meetings with senior staff and to meet the President.
In January 2012, AmpleHarvest.org founder Gary Oppenheimer was the final speaker at TEDx Manhattan "Changing the Way We Eat".
In February 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama, spoke about AmpleHarvest.org in a speech celebrating the first anniversary of her Let's Move! initiative.
In March of 2012, the domain name AmpleHarvest.com was donated by company branding agency Tungsten Branding, unifying and simplifying the AmpleHarvest.org's online name recognition.
In April 2012, AmpleHarvest.org registered it's 5,000th food pantry.
The AmpleHarvest.org Campaign, originally created as a program of Sustainable West Milford (New Jersey) was spawned off in April 2010 and became AmpleHarvest.org Inc. - a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (EIN #27-2433274).
Feedback from reviews, the press as well both the food bank and gardening community has been overwhelmingly positive. The ultimate success of the campaign will depend upon the number of food pantries that take the opportunity to be listed in the directory.
Although many people are concerned about their own economic situation, the AmpleHarvest.org campaign enables Americans to help their neighbors by reaching into their backyards instead of their back pockets.
Rutgers Environmental Steward