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Make a Donation’s 15th Anniversary: A Journey of Gratitude

May 20, 2024
Gary Oppenheimer

May 2024 is the beginning of the fourth quinquennial of  

I launched it 15 years ago with a press announcement. In what seemed like no time at all, the American thought leader on food waste, Jonathan Bloom cast the first sunshine  on this project, Vint Cerf  the “father of the Internet” encouraged Google to jump on board (and they are still with us… thank you so very much), the 1,000th food pantry signed up 150 days later, and I was named CNN Hero. Only 11 months had passed. By December 2011, I’m at the White House with the President and Michelle Obama. What was then “” was a small Board of Directors for governance, and me – doing the whole thing. But that soon ended with hiring the first two staffers, one of whom is still with (thank you so very much).

By May 2014 on our fifth anniversary, was two staffers, myself, and from time to time, volunteers (thank you very much) with very specific critically needed skills. The number of food pantries benefiting from had grown by several thousand more.

By our tenth anniversary in 2019, our staff had remained small but our reach continued to grow. We periodically surveyed gardeners across America as well as member food pantries to better understand our impact. Thanks to help from an amazing volunteer Harvard trained economist named Christopher Reberger (thank you very much) from Cisco Systems, we not only got insight into how much food was being donated (a lot!) but we also learned that the potential ultimate impact of America’s then 42 million gardeners donating surplus harvests to local food pantries, would result in a $58 billion savings in the nation’s health care costs. Post COVID, with the nation having 62 million gardeners, that estimate may be closer to $80 billion.

Today, fifteen years since Maureen and Josh (thank you very very much) volunteered to help me create, we’ve made it through a pandemic that made access to healthier food more important than ever, but we also had an estimated 20 million new gardeners starting to get dirt under their fingernails. We were also blessed in so many ways to have a new partnership with Bonnie Plants (thank you very much) that helped to underwrite a total overhaul of our web site and technology, while also enabling us to move a bit further from the “running on fumes” funding that many young nonprofits live with.  

In those five years, we enhanced the program to get more gardeners donating to more food pantries. In 2016, we created Food Waste Weekend (since renamed to “Faith Fights Food Waste”) to enable clergy of all faiths to give faith specific sermons on food waste from their own scriptural perspective – of course including gardeners donating their surplus harvests.   And in 2022 with help from Google, Bonnie Plants, Chief Henry Red Cloud, Lakota from Pine Ridge, as well as other Tribal elders and Indigenous food sovereignty experts plus the Biden White House – (thank you all so very much), we launched in Indian Country to enable the model that was working across 5,600 communities nationwide also benefit Native American communities on all reservations.

If you have noticed a recurrence of “thank you very much” across this posting, its because while I may be the face and the voice of, its actually the people I mentioned, gardeners across America, the entire Feeding America food bank network, more than 8,100 food pantry managers, government agencies such as the USDA, White House, EPA and others, fellow hunger and food waste warriors, the slightly larger but still small staff, the passionate Board of Trustees, and supporters across America who have all had an important part in bringing to this point.

There are few things you should know about me:

I’m the first to admit that I’m an aging geek.
I’m a pretty good gardener.
I’m socially responsible and hate waste
and lastly, I believe you can do the impossible if you first believe it isn’t.


I dreamed up in March of 2009 and launched it in May 2009, but I wasn’t alone.

With the help of the first two volunteers, people who gave me good advice, one long time friend who kept me out of organizational quicksand for a decade, as well as friends and family, I launched But the reality is that all of the people I’ve mentioned along with our philanthropic, corporate and individual supporters, and especially America’s home and community gardeners, that really deserve the applause.  

And to all of them, I say “thank you very much”.  

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