Seven years back, I wrote a piece called “March 9, 2009 – Not Your Typical Day”. It’s worth a read to see how an aging geek took an idea and ran with it.
Which brings us to today, May 18, 2023 and our fourteenth birthday (Happy Birthday to Us!).
The idea behind AmpleHarvest.org was to turn a serious problem most people never thought about, into a nationwide solution every gardener would eventually become a part of.
When I launched AmpleHarvest.org, it was intended to tackle the problem of food waste that with few exceptions, no one talked about. These two exceptions were Bill Marsh of the New York Times who created a map in 2008 of the United States representing the volume of food lost every month by a family of four, and Jonathan Bloom, America’s expert on the topic, whose WastedFood.com was and still remains the first go-to site for anyone wanting to learn about the issue.
Once two amazing volunteers built the website, it was on me to tell everyone about AmpleHarvest.org.
Turns out, I had help. Soon after the initial press release went out, the New York Times sent me to their “go to” person for food waste information – Jonathan. We chatted on the phone for almost an hour. I was most appreciative of his time but didn’t think anything would come of it until two days later when he posted a great article “Ample Harvest? Pass Some Along” on his site. Phone calls started coming in and emails started arriving. Jonathan put the first sunshine on my idea.
Next surprise was the article in the Huffington Post by Sasha Abramsky called “Breadline USA Part III” the first “press” AmpleHarvest.org received. What caught my eye was his comment: “It’s a win-win model: the kitchen growers have the satisfaction of seeing their surplus food being eaten and enjoyed. Impoverished pantry and shelter residents get to eat decent meals. And, down the road, the health care system saves money because the population is eating better, healthier, fare.”
That AmpleHarvest.org would influence the nation’s healthcare costs had never crossed my mind. It was the first of many eye-opening moments as I realized the impact of enabling people – ordinary people – to be the game changers in their own community.
Soon thereafter, Google stepped up with their AdWords grant which today is our best tool for educating millions of gardeners that the days of “Jars, Cans Boxes – No Fresh Food” at America’s food pantries is history.
They were followed by partners like Bonnie Plants, Home Depot, Walmart and others that all agreed a country that wastes half of its produce, should first focus on using what we already have.
And I must also take a moment to thank the donors – large and small, the cause marketing folks, the Board of Trustees, our amazing staff and of course you – our supporters – for helping us get this far this fast.
AmpleHarvest.org is about community engagement on a nationwide level – enabling people in the community with surplus food connect with the food pantries that are helping their neighbors who desperately need that harvest bounty.
AmpleHarvest.org is about the environment – reducing the waste stream and climate change gas emissions as food waste is reduced.
AmpleHarvest.org is about improving the health of the nation (thank you Sasha) as healthier food displaces salt/sugar/fat-laden processed food found at most food pantries.
And lastly, AmpleHarvest.org is about ordinary people increasingly doing in part what many had always assumed the government had to do: nourish our hungry neighbors in need.
Thanks to some statistically brilliant people, we know that a donation of $25 per month creates a sustained flow of food that grows every year. In the first year, 617 pounds of food worth $1,488 is donated while in the following year it’s 1,451 pounds worth nearly $5,000. Looking 20 years out, the numbers are so large, you might not believe them but they are real. The impact of your support is huge and sustained.
Today, about 25% of America’s food pantries have joined AmpleHarvest.org with more joining daily. And we expect that rate to grow as we ramp up our outreach to food pantries on Native American Reservations nationwide.
If you garden, help celebrate by growing a bit more (thank you Bonnie Plants) if you have the space and donate that surplus. You can also help celebrate by sponsoring a food pantry listing in honor or memory of someone, or even having your company sponsor all of the food pantry listings in your state.
AmpleHarvest.org did not get to be 14 on its own. We had a lot of help. There will come a time when every gardener in America knows about donating their surplus harvest, but until we get there, we need your help.
For the moment, this is a time to celebrate. Then it is back to work – together.
After all, we are only fourteen and there is no time or food to waste.