News & Views

Writings from AmpleHarvest.org
05
Aug

An apology.

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Gary Oppenheimer
Founder and executive director of AmpleHarvest.org.

Most blogs don’t start with an apology, or at least they probably shouldn’t.

This one does and it absolutely should.

I created AmpleHarvest.org in 2009 following the realization that the solution to hunger, malnutrition, childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes as well a host of environmental problems including the waste stream, trash dump methane emissions and the ever growing carbon foot prints in our communities are at least in part, solvable in the community.

For America’s 40+ million home growers who had the problem of often growing more food than they could use and for 50 million Americans who have had the day to day problem of living in a food insecure home, the epiphany that these problems were a solution for each other lead me to create and launch AmpleHarvest.org.

It took me only seven weeks.  It’s amazing what you can do with a good idea and no lawyers in the picture.  It’s also helpful to have the adage that “to do the impossible, you must believe it isn’t” on your side.

Researching the problem, designing the program, finding techies to build it, testing the platform, creating the marketing material, working with hundreds of food banks in America, connecting with government officials, partnering with other non-profits working to end hunger, creating “talking points” and then talking to the media,  asking people for help and support, building an organization and a board, working with volunteers, thinking through needed enhancements, creating iPhone and Android apps, working with the faith community, communicating with thousands of food pantries, tracking and managing about 12 gigabytes of emails as well as redirecting the hungry people who come to us for help to WhyHunger.org or United Way – both partners of AmpleHarvest.org, left me well aware of the urgent need to create a blog.  It also left me with virtually no time to actually do so.

Missed were the opportunities to welcome St. Mary’s Food Pantry – the very first food pantry to join AmpleHarvest.org in May 2009 or to showcase Rosie’s Place, the 1000th that joined only 150 days later, the phenomenal experience of being named CNN Hero in 2010 or the sheer terror of doing a TEDx presentation in 2012, spending an evening working in Miriam’s Kitchen  (the soup kitchen to which the White House donates food) or the awe of meeting the President and First Lady. More so was watching the angry reactions of the Republican and Democratic co-chairs of the House Hunger Caucus when we told them that a government grant that could have helped AmpleHarvest.org nationwide was instead awarded to a single county to learn if poverty and hunger existed there (no surprise – it does.).

Going forward, I’ll do my best to share AmpleHarvest.org’s dreams, growth, impact and challenges.  This blog will include writings from AmpleHarvest.org staffers and interns who will share their stories and dreams, and hopefully, guest bloggers who will add their food for thought, too.

We are finally launching this blog.  It is four years late and many wonderful entries that should have appeared in the past did not.  For that I apologize, but I felt that creating a whole new way to eliminate food waste, hunger and malnutrition across America was more urgent than actually writing about it.

Maybe there is nothing to apologize for after all.

6 Responses

  1. Dear Gary,
    I hear you, brother! Doing the work has more urgency than writing about the work for me, as well.
    Yes, we all appreciate our volunteers, community and like-minded friends; we want them to know it. We want to get the word out about our project so that those who need such resources will be able to find us. But it’s a balancing act & can be difficult making time for everything.

    I continue hoping for a dedicated writer who wishes to contribute to the cause by volunteering to handle website/FB/Twitter/ traditional media. I hope such a person may find you, too!

    Meanwhile, you caught my eye with your title and kept me reading till the end with your writing; you’re good at this blogging thing. 🙂

    Keep up the good work. Best wishes.

  2. Sharon Barrington

    Gary,
    I am in awe of the great and far-reaching good that your organization has done and is continuing to do. No apologies are necessary , but your humility just shows what integrity you and AmpleHarvest have.

  3. Theresa Andreen

    I am looking forward to reading many blog posts in the future. Ample Harvest is one of my favorite organizations and I have loved sharing about it with other gardeners. This year we have not had enough produce to donate but hopefully we will have a better crop next year. Our daughter (3 years old) is already an avid gardener and Ample Harvest has provided a wonderful means of teaching her about helping others in need.

    If I may make one request, please clarify “type 2 diabetes” in your post, instead of just calling it “diabetes.” Not every form of the disease is caused by poor diet or lack of exercise. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease with no known cause, no cure (yet), and no means of prevention. Most type 1 diabetics are not overweight and have wonderfully healthy diets. Previously known as “juvenile diabetes,” it can strike at any age and is often misdiagnosed as the flu, resulting in deadly consequences. Our daughter has been battling this life-threatening disease since she was 19 months old. At the time of her diagnosis she had only had breast milk and organic fruits, vegetables, and grains–many of which were homegrown. Nothing in her diet caused her to have this disease. However, she, like many others living with type 1 diabetes, has frequently faced discrimination due to her illness. We have often been accused of feeding her junk and have ignorantly been told that if she ate better she would no longer have diabetes. In addition to intensely managing her diabetes daily with 8-12 blood glucose checks, a rigorously planned diet and a minimum of three insulin injections a day, we have to deal with people treating her like someone who is lazy and fat (she is the total opposite).

    Please help us dispel the ignorance abounding regarding diabetes by clarifying “type 2” in your post. Those two small words can make a huge difference in the lives of children battling type 1 diabetes every day of their lives. As we continue to fight for a cure for this deadly disease, hopefully we will have less of a battle to fight against discrimination.

    Thank you again for this wonderful organization that makes it so easy to help those less fortunate than ourselves. You are helping to foster a generation with a passion not only of gardening but of generosity as well.

    Warmly,
    Theresa

    P.S. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has a very straightforward website with the warning signs of type 1 diabetes as well as answers to myths and misconceptions about the disease. Knowing a few basic symptoms can help save a life! http://jdrf.org/life-with-t1d/type-1-diabetes-information/symptoms-warning-signs/

    1. Theresa:

      Let me start by saying that I am a long distance cyclist, 142 lbs – and type II diabetic so I fully appreciate what you are saying.

      The food your diet, weight and lack of exercise certainly contribute to the risk of becoming diabetic (type ii) so from that perspective, we agree.

      However, for type I diabetics who rely on a food pantry to help feed their family, while the food they eat did not give them diabetes, fresh food certainly will help them better manage their blood sugar numbers.

      The discussion on AmpleHarvest.org is not about how you became sick but more along the lines of how you remain healthy – especially if it is by way of making use of fresh food from your community.

      Gary

      1. Theresa Andreen

        Gary,

        Thank you so much for taking the time to address my comment. I apologize if my post sounded bitter—I did not intend it to. As a protective parent, I have all too often heard and read statements condemning diabetics and perpetuating misconceptions about it (i.e. type I can be cured by a better diet and that type II diabetics are fat and lazy). I will admit it is a topic I am sensitive about.

        I wholeheartedly agree that a good diet, full of fresh fruits and veggies is vital for a healthy lifestyle, especially for those with special health issues. That is one reason I love Ample Harvest—you have helped make it so easy to share this possibility with our neighbors! You are helping us build healthy communities all across the country.

        I look forward to donating more of what we grow with our local food pantries (we will even be planting extra in order to do so), instilling a love of growing healthy bodies, gardens and communities with our children, and reading your blog!

        Warmly,
        Theresa

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AmpleHarvest.org, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (EIN #27-2433274).