What exactly is AmpleHarvest.org?
Created by CNN Hero Gary Oppenheimer, AmpleHarvest.org is a free nationwide movement to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America while also helping the environment. AmpleHarvest.org makes it easy for millions of backyard and community gardeners* across the country to quickly find local food pantries that are eager to receive their excess garden bounty.
AmpleHarvest.org has received backing and support from the USDA, Google Inc., Feeding America and food banks nationwide as well as major faith-based organizations. It has been highlighted on the White House web site, PBS’s “Growing A Greener World” as well as the CNN Heroes program.
AmpleHarvest.org enables gardeners to find a food pantry near them and then view the pantries’ desired day/time for receiving donations. AmpleHarvest.org also displays personalized driving instructions to the pantry as well as (if provided) a photograph of the pantry – making it easier to find. For the benefit of gardeners during a non-growing season or anyone else interested in making a donation, AmpleHarvest.org also provides pantries the opportunity to list store bought items that they need.
Our vision is an America where millions of gardeners eliminate malnutrition and hunger in their own communities. We are accomplishing this by educating, encouraging and enabling growers, nationwide, to donate their excess harvest to the needy in their community instead of allowing it to rot in the garden. Our message to America is: No Food Left Behind.
Although there are a number of excellent programs that help farmers and community gardens get produce to food banks, AmpleHarvest.org is the only program in America that is solving hunger and malnutrition by moving information instead of moving food to help local gardeners find neighborhood food pantries. AmpleHarvest.org, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (EIN #27-2433274).
* Note… we consider anyone who grows food for their own enjoyment (i.e. not to be sold to others) as a gardener, regardless of the size of their garden plot. While farmers are welcome to use AmpleHarvest.org, our focus is on gardeners nationwide.
What is the difference between a food bank and a food pantry?
Food Banks are large-scale operations that collect and distribute food and other household items to local food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. Food Pantries* are local walk-in facilities where families in need go to get food. The typical food pantry operates out of a local house of worship, school, or other civic building. Most of the foods distributed by the pantries are packaged, canned or dry goods. Refrigeration is usually limited to dairy items such as milk and cheese. Produce is rarely available.
*Note: In some parts of the country, what we are calling a “food pantry” is instead referred to as a “food shelf”, “food closet”, “food cupboard”, “food share” or even “food bank”. For the sake of simplicity, AmpleHarvest.org uses only the terms “Food Bank” and “Food Pantry”.
How many food pantries are there in the country?
No one knows for sure. According to a study by FeedingAmerica.org, in 2010, there were 33,500 in their network – an increase of 13% from 2006. There are no accurate statistics on how many other food pantries exist outside of the FeedingAmerica.org network, but by some estimates, there may now be more than 40,000.
Why don’t many pantries offer fresh produce?
While there is an increasing effort to improve access to fresh food at America’s food pantries, all to often they still have little or none to offer.
Unlike supermarkets that get fresh produce deliveries daily, food banks and other sources deliver food less frequently to pantries. Because food banks are often providing food to hundreds of pantries within a large geographic area, it’s just not possible in many cases for them to get fresh produce – especially short shelf life produce – before it spoils.
Backyard gardeners, however, can harvest their produce and deliver it to the local pantry only a short drive away. Furthermore, if the pantry client’s pick up the produce that same day, they will benefit from eating food that is even fresher than what can be purchased at a food store.
Why do gardeners grow more food than they can use?
In an ideal world, gardeners would plant only enough to satisfy the needs of themselves and their friends. The reality of gardening (and farming in general) is that all sorts of things beyond the control of the gardener influence the ultimate size of the harvest. In a growing season with lots of sun, adequate rain, no late or early frosts, no serious pest problems, the grower gets a larger harvest. Because a gardener can never know how good (or bad) the growing season will be, they usually grow more plants than they need.
AmpleHarvest.org exists to ensure that the extra produce gets to food pantries instead of being left to rot in the garden.
I don’t garden, can I still contribute?
Yes! Not everyone gardens and gardeners do not garden all the time. Food pantries need fresh produce – but they also need a variety of store bought items all year long.
Pantries are encouraged to add information to their AmpleHarvest.org page listing store bought items they are most in need of (they may also list items they don’t need!). If the pantry you found has listed store bought items they need, buy what you can afford on your next shopping trip (or check your kitchen cabinets) and drop them off at the pantry at the day/time they listed for donations.
Please check the expiration date on the items you are bringing to the pantry (from your home or from a store). Even canned goods expire. Food pantries do not distribute, and will dispose of food past its expiration date.
How can I help?
Although there are already 8,642 food pantries across all 50 states already registered on AmpleHarvest.org, the key to the continued success of AmpleHarvest.org is increasing the public awareness of the effort.
As more pantries and gardeners learn about it, more food will find its way from backyard gardens to the kitchens of those who need it most.
You can help in two equally important ways.
- Visit AmpleHarvest.org/local to see the 4 simple steps you can take to make sure your community is taking full advantage of what AmpleHarvest.org is doing in the rest of America.
- You can help to sustain AmpleHarvest.org’s efforts by making a monetary contribution. Donations of $1,000 or more earn a special listing on the AmpleHarvest.org site (and our eternal gratitude). However, any contribution, large or small, one time or recurring is greatly appreciated and will help AmpleHarvest.org diminish hunger in America. AmpleHarvest.org, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (EIN #27-2433274)
I found your site and need food for my family. Can you help me?
We’re very sorry to hear about your situation. Many people across the country are having similar difficulties.
The AmpleHarvest.org web site is designed to help food pantries in your community, where you can get food assistance, get garden fresh produce from local gardeners.
While we can’t help you directly, we know where you can get help. Please click here to find a registered food pantry in your area where you can get free food as soon as possible. You can also click here to learn about resources available from both WhyHunger.org and United Way.
AmpleHarvest.org is working hard to get healthy, freshly grown food into America’s food pantries. These two organizations can help you find one nearby.