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Grape Expectations

October 15, 2013
grapes on the vine
photo of Gary Oppenheimer in a garden Gary Oppenheimer

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.

I 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.

As a relatively new and innovative program, – the little engine that could – is channeling fresh food to the pantries across all 50 states.

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.

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