FAQ for Fresh Produce Donations
Q. Can I now donate fresh food from my home/community garden as part of the Feds Feed Families program?
Up until now, you were only able to donate non-perishable food items as part of the FFF food drive. In partnership with AmpleHarvest.org, FFF now enables you to also donate fresh food from your home or community garden too!
The only difference is that instead of bringing the fresh food to the collection box at your Federal workplace, you’ll instead be taking it directly to a food pantry in your community that is eager to receive whatever you can donate.
Q. What exactly is AmpleHarvest.org?
A. Created by CNN Hero Gary Oppenheimer, AmpleHarvest.org is a nationwide nonprofit diminishing food waste and hunger (while helping the environment) in America by making it easy for millions of backyard gardeners across the country to quickly find local food pantries 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 organizations. It has been highlighted on thelegacy White House legacy web site, PBS’s “Growing A Greener World” as well as the CNN Heroes program.
AmpleHarvest.org enables gardeners to find food pantries within a specified distance of their home and then view the pantries desired day/time for receiving donations.
Our vision is an America where millions of gardeners eliminate malnutrition and hunger in their own community. 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.
Q. What is the difference between a food bank and a food pantry?
A. 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. (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”). The typical food pantry operates out of a local house of worship 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.
Q. If I donate garden produce to a pantry, how should I weigh it?
A. Gardeners donating food to their local food pantry through AmpleHarvest.org (www.AmpleHarvest.org/FFF) can either weigh the food on a home scale, or they can use 25 pounds per shopping bag as a good estimate. While shopping bags come in varying sizes (plastic, paper and reusable) and of course some garden produce weights more than others, our survey demonstrated this calculation to be about right overall.
Q. Is this same as gleaning?
A. No. Gleaning programs involve volunteers visiting a farm to help harvest extra food that can then be donated to a food pantry. AmpleHarvest.org is instead focused on America’s 42 million home and community gardeners who have food to donate from their own garden or garden plot. You the gardener harvest the food from your garden, find a nearby food pantry at AmpleHarvest.org and then you take it there yourself. It’s all within your neighborhood and you do it when you want – not when a gleaning program is organized.
Q. I’m not a gardener but I want to make a virtual food drive contribution. Will that be treated as a Feds Feed Families Donation?
A. Yes. A virtual food drive contribution to AmpleHarvest.org is treated as a Feds Feed Families donation. Every dollar donated to the virtual food drive is treated at 1.84 pounds of food. Put another way, a $25 donation would be the same as 46 pounds of food for the purposes of Feds Feed Families.
AmpleHarvest.org surveyed about 2,500 gardeners nationwide about their 2014 and 2015 harvests and got a good estimate on the number of gardeners growing each type of food. We took the top 4 (tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cucumbers) and using the USDA retail costs came up with a $.54 value per pound of food donated.
Q. Why don’t pantries offer fresh produce?
A. Unlike supermarkets that get deliveries from food wholesalers daily assuring that you’ll get fresh produce, food banks and other sources do less frequent deliveries of food to pantries. As such, lettuce or tomatoes that looked great on Monday when the food bank got them would be pretty limp or mushy a week later when finally delivered to the local food pantry.
Backyard gardeners however can harvest their produce and deliver it to the pantry on the same day. 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.
Q. Why do gardeners grow more food than they can use?
A. 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 (small pests such as fungus, pests a bit larger such as insects, pests a lot larger such as groundhogs or rabbits, and very large pests such as deer) etc., the grower gets a larger harvest. If however, any of the above appear (more often than not, several can appear at the same time), the harvest is significantly reduced.
Because the gardener never quite knows how good (or bad) the growing season will be, they usually grow more plants than they need–just in case a fungus laden insect traveling in the fur of a deer sized ground hog attacks the garden. The result is that if one or more of these bad things do not attack the garden, the harvest can easily exceed the needs of the grower.
AmpleHarvest.org exists to insure that the extra produce gets to food pantries instead of being left to rot in the garden.
Q. I think this is a great idea… how can I help?
A. Although there are already 8,986 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.
And you can help in two equally important ways.
- Visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/local see the 4 simple steps you can do to make sure your community is taking full advantage of what AmpleHarvest.org is doing in the rest of America.
- You can help support AmpleHarvest.org’s efforts by making a monetary contribution. AmpleHarvest.org, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (EIN #27-2433274)
Q. What do I do if AmpleHarvest.org does not list any food pantries in my neighborhood?
A. Your help can be critical here.
Food pantries are often “under the radar”–they do not have a web site, or signs on the front door. That is why we created AmpleHarvest.org, to make it possible for growers to find a pantry in your neighborhood.
If we do not list a pantry in your area, please help us find one. How? See if a place of worship or other civic organization in your community has one. Call your regional food bank (www.feedingamerica.org can help you find it) and ask them if they can help you.
Once you do find one, contact them to see if they’ll accept your produce. Also, please ask them to visit AmpleHarvest.org You can also ask them to contact the other nearby food pantries to let them know about AmpleHarvest.org.
Once the pantry is registered, the next backyard gardener in your area looking to share their bounty will not experience the problems you did.
Q. I love the idea of sharing my produce, what do I do once I have found a pantry?
A. First and foremost, see if a preferred delivery day of the week and time of day is listed. It is important to adhere to the pantry’s scheduling information if they provide it so as to not interfere with their operations. If no day/time is listed, call or email them to find out when they would like you to deliver the produce.
On the day of your planned delivery, harvest your crops in the early morning while they still have some of the coolness of the evening air. If they have dew, wipe them dry with a paper towel. Each item should be visually inspected for serious bruising, insect damage, and ripeness. Do not donate produce that you would not buy for your own family. Produce that is overripe, has mushy spots, or is seriously blemished should either be made into a soup, stew, or go into a compost pile but not donated. (Note, if you used any pesticide on your garden, please take the time to clean each piece of produce as recommended by the pesticide manufacturer on the label before you let anyone eat it.)
Next, unless they have given you other instructions, package your produce in paper supermarket bags and take them to the pantry at the requested time. If you find the pantry convenient to get to, you can continue to share your produce with them through the rest of the growing season. Alternatively, you may decide to go back to AmpleHarvest.org next time and select a different pantry – spreading your produce over several pantries.
Whichever way you choose to do it, it will be greatly appreciated. Lastly, please remember to let your fellow gardeners know about AmpleHarvest.org, so they can share the bounty of their garden at their harvest time.
Q. I have a lot of tomatoes but only a few cucumbers, should I bother to bring them?
A. Yes! The produce you bring will be pooled with that of other backyard gardeners in your area. For all you know, the next gardener might bring only 3 tomatoes and two bags of cucumbers.
Remember, the key thing is that food should not be wasted, especially when so many Americans are having a hard time feeding their families.
Your bounty, large or small, will help to diminish hunger in America.
Q. Are my donations tax deductible?
A. We are not tax experts, but our tax experts believe that donations may be tax deductible provided you can determine the fair market value of your donation. We spoke to our tax experts… but you’ll need to talk to yours to get an answer that will be applicable to your situation. You may print out a food donation receipt and use it to help document the donation.
Q. If I make a donation to the AmpleHarvest.org virtual food drive, how many pounds of food is that equal to for the Feds Feed Families reporting?
A. AmpleHarvest.org surveyed more about 2,500 gardeners nationwide about their 2014 and 2015 harvests and got a good estimate on the number of gardeners growing each type of food. We took the top 4 (tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers) and using the USDA retail costs came up with $.54 value per pound of food donated. This means that every dollar donated would represent about 1.84 lbs. of food or to make it simple, a $25 donation to the AmpleHarvest.org virtual food drive should be treated as 46 pounds of food for the purpose of Feds Feed Families.
Q. Do the pantries care if I grow organically?
A. Most do not – they are perfectly happy with fresh produce, organic or not. HOWEVER, you may want to let the pantry know if you use organic methods in case one of their clients prefers it. Having said that, if you do grow organically, you will harvest healthier food without depleting the earth as much.
Please click here for a number of recommended links to help you grow a healthy garden.
Q. Growing season is over… can I still donate to a food pantry?
A. Pantries need your help all year long. Visit AmpleHarvest.org to see if your local pantry has listed any store-bought items that they are in particular need of. Any donations will help.
Q. Would you like to know if I shared my garden bounty?
A. We’d love to know about it. Send a picture to [email protected] and let us know how much produce you were able to share. You might also want to visit our Facebook page and post the information there too.
Q. I know about a food pantry that is not on AmpleHarvest.org, what should I do?
A. Just because you know about the pantry does not mean that other backyard gardeners in your area also know about it.
Please make every effort to inform the pantry about AmpleHarvest.org. The key to the success of the movement is to have as many food pantries as possible listed on the site.
The best thing to do is either to visit the pantry and suggest that they go to www.AmpleHarvest.org to list their pantry, or if they do not have Internet access, print out the pantry flier in the green box on the left and give it to them. They may need your help to actually do the registration. Please remind them that there is absolutely no cost or obligations involved with listing on AmpleHarvest.org.
Q. What happens if someone becomes ill after eating something I donated?
A. You are protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act signed during the Clinton administration. The Act is intended to encourage donations of food to nonprofit organizations while providing the donor with “Good Samaritan” protection. You are provided protection from criminal and civil liability providing you did not exhibit gross negligence. The text of the act is at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/PLAW-104publ210/pdf/PLAW-104publ210.pdf