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Grape Expectations

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Gary Oppenheimer, Founder and Executive Director of has an interesting problem.

People LOVE it.

They love the idea and the program – that you can use the Internet to help solve immediate problems like hunger and malnutrition which in turn help to solve long term problems like childhood obesity, type II diabetes etc. while also helping the environment.

It is a simple solution to a problem that, up to now, most people didn’t know existed. We often tell people it isn’t rocket science – because it isn’t (note: I have no idea of what rocket science actually is). simply connects the dots between excess fresh food in backyard gardens and the food pantries helping the families in the same community, and does so on a sustainable basis.

For good.

Center For Food Action DonationThe problem isn’t what we do – moving information instead of food. Rather, the problem is that we’re the first to do it.

Most food funders like to see trucks of food or lots of meals served to smiling kids. They are not quite sure of what to do when you don’t see food moving because the food is already there.

Like any other charity, needs money – not all that much relatively speaking, but still enough to pay a small staff, pay for the technology and the other expenses of running a small organization. In case you are wondering how much we need, it’s about 5 minutes of Feeding America’s annual budget.

While some foundations, like Newman’s Own and Broadway Cares to name two have stepped up to help, many others send their regrets – generally in Donate buttonthe form of “we love what you are doing, but we’ve never seen anything quite like it, so we can’t help you – keep it up!”. We remain heavily reliant on individual donations.

Earlier this year, Beaulieu Vineyard (BV) wines approached and offered to help us. Here was a corporate partner who has historically been very concerned about hunger and healthy food, who donated the equivalent of two million meals over the past two years as part of their Give and Give Back program and was now interested in supporting innovation, and was their choice.

I recently traveled to Napa Valley to meet with them and tour their winery. What impressed me even before I arrived were the vineyards stretching for what seemed like miles – all green and all brimming with grapes ready for harvest. You could immediately imagine what wonderful wines they might ferment into.
BV barrelsI was given an in-depth behind-the-scenes tour – seeing everything starting from the grapes to the bottled wine. Their wine makers were extremely proud of how they made the best possible use of “old world” technologies, such as hand-assembled oak barrels as well as the newer stuff such as large stainless steel and even concrete vats. What struck me was both the care that was taken to grow the best possible grapes as well as the effort that went into making the best possible use of the harvest, and the speed with which it was done – grapes harvested only hours earlier were already pressed and in oak barrels to start the fermentation process.
Nothing was wasted. The grapes went into the wine, the stems into the compost and even the remnants from the process were put to good use.

I left that evening thinking that if a wine-making business could so cherish its harvest, every backyard and commercial grower nationwide should equally cherish theirs too – if not for themselves, then for the needy in their own community.

This goes to the heart of what does – enabling growers nationwide to reach into their backyard instead of their back pocket to help their neighbors in need. The immediate impact is that millions of Americans, especially our nation’s children, get access to freshly harvested and locally grown food for their dinner table. The long-term impact is that the food donated helps to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity and type II diabetes now ravaging our kids, and will therefore help to lower the nation’s long-term healthcare costs.

BV views their grape vines as a major investment in their future. America needs to similarly view locally grown fresh food as an investment in its future.BV grapes
As a relatively new and innovative program, – the little engine that could – is channeling fresh food to the pantries across all 50 states.

You can help BV help
Now through the end of the year, if you text “Give4” to 79008, BV will donate $1 to – up to a grand total of $50,000. They’ll be repeating the campaign again in 2014.  Note BV is making the donation – not the person doing the texting.

A single text message will help us permanently bring together a grower somewhere in America with a nearby food pantry so that a dinner with canned vegetables and fruit might become a thing of the past and be replaced with one including a salad and a vegetable – harvested only hours earlier.
Imagine driving down any street in America and seeing a home or community gardens brimming with extra fresh food and immediately see the opportunity to nourish the community. enables that image to come to life, as it did for me while I drove past the vineyards towards the winery.

I could almost smell the Merlot breathe.

It was the perfect case of Grape Expectations.

Note:  BV is formally announcing their support of at a major food event in New York City on Food Day, Wednesday Oct 15.  You can learn more about their support for our work at and learn more about the food day event staring Chris Noth, here.

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