Jan 19 2013
According to a 2009 study by the National Gardening Association, more than 43 million American grow fruit, herbs and vegetables in home gardens – and that number is increasing. These gardeners, given good soil, access to water, lots of sun, and a little bit of luck, typically wait for months for their crops to start bearing fruit. Once they start the harvest, they use, preserve and share the bounty… but the squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc. keep on coming and from personal experience, I can tell you that there are only so many cucumbers you can give to friends and still have them call you a friend. While some gardeners compost the excess produce, many others simply let it rot in the garden or worse, throw it into the trash, adding to the waste stream and causing the release of methane gas as it decomposes – contributing to climate change.
According to 2009 statistics from the USDA, 49 million Americans are food insecure – a fancy way of saying people either do not have enough food or they are at real risk of not having enough food for their families. After hearing numbers like billions and trillions thrown about by government officials, it is somewhat easy to start to think that 49 million as just another number. To put it in perspective, if you took the combined populations of Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and West Virginia, 23 of our 50 states and added together, you’d have around 49 million hungry or nearly hungry people. This includes one in four (or one in three if Hispanic) American children below the age of six.
In May 2009, a nationwide program called the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign was created to enable gardeners who grow fruit, vegetables, herbs or nuts to share their excess harvest with a local food pantry – easily found at www.AmpleHarvest.org or with the free AmpleHarvest iPhone and Android apps.
Backed and supported by the White House, Google, Newman’s Own, the faith community and countless others along with extensive media coverage, nearly 6,000 food pantries across all 50 states can now receive garden fresh produce from local backyard gardeners who use AmpleHarvest.org.
This one of a kind program has garnered an enthusiastic response nationwide. For example, “Within one hour of registering Community Resource Center on the AmpleHarvest.org website I received a call from a local family of four with 10 orange trees. I spoke with the mother of the family and she said that until she heard of AmpleHarvest.org her family was spending time cleaning up rotten fruit off the ground. Now her family can spend time harvesting fruit to give to low income families in their community. Since speaking with her, she has dropped off 8 large bags full of locally grown oranges”
While tens of millions of growers across America do not know that they could or should donate excess food, nor where to donate it, tens of thousands of food pantries do not know they can accept fresh food nor that it even exists in their own community. AmpleHarvest.org solves this problem and several others by moving information instead of food.
Despite the innovation and impact of AmpleHarvest.org, the biggest challenge has been the support needed to sustain and grow the program not because it is too costly (quite the contrary) and not because it has not shown any impact (also quite the contrary – see our national map ) but because it is so innovative that it is outside the scope of what traditional food funding organizations support. The other challenge AmpleHarvest.org has encountered is the perception that, because it is an Internet based solution to hunger, it costs nothing to operate. Of course if you look at eBay, Google or iTunes, you quickly realize that behind every extraordinary Internet based solution are hardworking professionals that actually make things work. And so it is with AmpleHarvest.org. With a budget of pennies per year per hungry American annually, AmpleHarvest.org is by far the most cost efficient way of eliminating malnutrition and food waste in America. And with an end goal of “no food left behind”, it is also eminently doable.
The AmpleHarvest.org Campaign is successful due to participation by people in communities across America. And you can help too! As more food pantries learn about it and join the campaign, more gardeners across the country will be able to share their harvest, and garden by garden, hunger in America will be eliminated.
• If you know of a food pantry in your community, possibly in your house of worship, please visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/add for information on helping the pantry join the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign.
• If you belong to a community organization, please share with the other members, information about AmpleHarvest.org and urge them to share the information with their network of friends and family nationwide.
• Urge your local print and electronic news/media outlets to do a story about AmpleHarvest.org. Press information is available at www.AmpleHarvest.org/press
• If you grow food in a home garden and harvest more than you can use, preserve or give away, please use AmpleHarvest.org to find a local pantry eager for your excess harvest
• If you belong to a community garden or CSA, please let the other members know that they can donate excess food. Post the flier at www.AmpleHarvest.org/CSA
• Ask your business to sponsor an AmpleHarvest.org Virtual Food Drive wherein donations end hunger for good. Learn more at www.AmpleHarvest.org/VirtualFoodDrive
• Share the 2 sided/1 page flier at www.AmpleHarvest.org/gardenshop with a local garden shop or nursery
• Lastly, on special occasions, instead of putting flowers on the table, put out a basket of whole fruit. After the dinner, donate the fruit to a local food pantry. Visit www.AmpleHarvest.org/holiday to learn more.
The food we eat fuels our country. Today, one out of every six Americans is hungry. It doesn’t have to be that way and you can help.
Reach into your backyard instead of your back pocket to help your neighbors in need.
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