As the Grower Outreach Coordinator at AmpleHarvest.org I spend my days reaching out to gardeners across the country, asking them do donate their extra garden bounty to their local food pantry. But how do you convince someone to be altruistic? How do you convince someone to share what they have with hungry families in their community? How do you show them it’s worth the extra step in their process to feed those in need? Well, I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you what got me out in the garden harvesting food to deliver to my local food pantry: morning sickness.
That’s right, I’m talking about the morning sickness that accompanies pregnancy. I’m pregnant! My family and I are very happy and, for now, my 3 year old is excited to have a little sibling on the way…we’ll see how he feels when there’s another person competing for mom and dad’s attention. Anyway, for me, being pregnant means at least 3 months of morning sickness. Now, whoever came up with the term “morning sickness” had no idea what they were talking about. In my case at least, it should be called 24-hours a day, 7 days a week sickness. From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep at night I feel nauseous…that sickly, yucky, puke-y feeling that won’t go away no matter what. Many women have bizarre food-cravings while they are pregnant. My pregnancy is filled with food-aversions—hatred of foods and drinks that suddenly smell, taste, or look horrible to me.
My poor husband, who had been drinking about a pot of coffee every day, had to quit cold turkey because the smell of coffee brewing was unbearable to me. Somehow just the smell gave me heartburn and made me want to throw up at the same time. I almost tossed a pot out the window the first time he brewed it after I became pregnant. My husband has been a doll and not made coffee or even dared to bring a cup of coffee home from a coffee shop. But, my food aversions didn’t stop with coffee.
We have chickens. They are wonderful, backyard pets that keep us stocked up with fresh, organic eggs. Unfortunately, the thought (and smell) of cooking up an egg in the skillet sent me straight to the bathroom. We had several dozens of fresh eggs in the fridge that no one in my family was allowed to cook for fear of instant eviction.
Another top contender for greatest nausea-inducing food was the bunch of beautiful red and green bell peppers that we got in our weekly Community Supported Agriculture share from a local farm. They were absolutely beautiful, but the smell of peppers cooking made my stomach turn instantly….they had to go. Coffee, eggs, and peppers were bad, but onions were by far the most despised. Unfortunately, I had a massive amount of green onions growing in my garden bed out front that needed to be harvested.
So, here I am, trapped in my 24-hour “morning sickness” bubble with tons of fresh food that is going to go bad. I just couldn’t throw it out but there was no way anyone in my family was going to risk cooking and eating anything on the naughty list….you don’t want to mess with an angry pregnant woman.
So, even though it was for totally selfish reasons, I decided to donate this food to a local food pantry. I went to AmpleHarvest.org/findpantry and found a pantry less than half a mile from my house that was desperate for fresh produce donations and I took the eggs, the peppers and the onions along with a few other fresh items to donate. The hardest part for me was loading up all of the offending food items into my car and driving them there. It wasn’t very far, but have you ever put a big bunch of green onions in your back seat? The smell is RIPE and very strong…and I am already particularly sensitive. I put the box of food in the back, rolled down all the windows, and I pulled my shirt up over my nose to block the smell. I was still gagging the whole way there.
When I delivered the food, the pantry coordinator was really excited to see me. As the clients came through the door they were thrilled as well. Their other choices were boxes of dried potatoes or rice, cans of beans and jars of peanut butter. The contrast between the colorful peppers and the non-perishable items was hard to ignore. The fresh food had built-in, natural advertising in the form of bold, beautiful colors. The eggs went fast too….almost as soon as I put them on the shelf they were gone. I sat back and talked with the pantry coordinator as I watched my food walk out the door in the arms of smiling, happy people. Even though I felt sick and miserable, I could see that my misery was bringing happiness to people who came in to the pantry worried about what their next meal would be.
While I may have felt I was doing the right thing for the wrong reason, the result was hungry people getting fresh, local, healthy food to feed their families. When it comes to sharing your garden bounty, I guess it really doesn’t matter WHY you do it, but THAT you do it when you can.
And, to all you pregnant women out there who, like me, turn in to raving food-hating lunatics in the first trimester, think about donating that food rather than throwing it away. What triggers your barfing can be a blessing to someone else!