AmpleHarvest.org was launched in May of 2009. It was not yet a nonprofit, and it didn’t yet have any staff other than myself. I was, as they say, the chief bottle washer and cook, doing everything – which was all the more challenging because I had no experience in starting or running a nationwide program and no experience in trying to bring together, two distinct but not yet connected constituencies – millions of gardeners across America and the nation’s food bank network including its tens of thousands of food pantries.
What I did have was a gut feeling that my vision would be an important step towards reducing hunger by reducing the waste of food, the latter an issue that had only recently started to be discussed (special thank you to Tristram Stuart and Jonathan Bloom for educating the world about this important issue).
I started AmpleHarvest.org by emailing Feeding America food banks and introducing AmpleHarvest.org to them. I asked them to invite their member food pantries to join AmpleHarvest.org. The big unknown was would my idea be well received or would it be upsetting the elephant in the hunger room. As it turned out, food banks across America recognized that their member food pantries needed and should have access to locally grown fresh food, and that home/community gardeners in the community had been, an overlooked opportunity to make that happen.
On day one, St. Marys Food Pantry in NJ signed up and in the days to follow, and ever-increasing number of pantries learned about and joined AmpleHarvest.org. The realization that this was really taking hold on a nationwide basis was driven home to me when on October 16th 2009, only 150 days later, the 1000th food pantry, Rosie’s Place in Boston, MA, joined AmpleHarvest.org (read more here). October 16 was also World Food Day.
Since then, I’ve taken a moment every World Food Day to look at where AmpleHarvest.org is, what it’s managed to accomplish, and where we should be aiming our sights in the year to come.
Today, AmpleHarvest.org is working with 25% of America’s food pantries in 4,200 communities in all 50 states. We’re looking to expand in the coming year to include Indian Country and Puerto Rico as well as the territories, we’ll be working harder to make sure that the food pantry data we have is as up to date as possible (no easy task when pantry hours, staffing, etc. are continually changing), and we’ll be working to help more hungry families learn about the amazing food America’s gardeners are donating.
Tomorrow, October 16, 2021 is World Food Day. They’ll be highlighting many of the ideas and efforts that programs around the world are doing with a particular focus on what individuals like you can do.
AmpleHarvest.org is all about making any gardener regardless of the size of their garden, a hero in their own community for as long as they garden. For most of America, our gardening season is coming to a close but soon, the cycle will start again, first the catalogs, then the seedlings, bare root fruit trees and seeds, then turning over the soil, planting, tending, waiting and then harvesting, and lastly the opportunity to donate that surplus harvest.
World Food Day is about what the world can do to nourish itself, but it’s also about what you can do to nourish your community. It starts with you.