AmpleHarvest.org, is a nationwide non-profit that uses technology to end food waste and hunger, reduce malnutrition and help the environment in America by educating and empowering millions of home/community gardeners to easily find a local food pantry eager for their surplus garden bounty.
At the time of this blog post, there were 8,695 food pantries across all 50 states registered on AmpleHarvest.org, and more are joining every day.
Founded by CNN Hero and World Food Prize nominee Gary Oppenheimer.
“AmpleHarvest.org envisions an America where millions of gardeners eliminate wasted food, malnutrition and hunger in their own community.”The AmpleHarvest.org Vision Statement
AmpleHarvest.org has received support and backing from Google Inc., the White House and the USDA, the National Council of Churches, the National Gardening Association, Feeding America and its member food banks, Bonnie Plants, Garden Writers of America as well as numerous faith organizations. It is available to food pantries (and similar feeding programs) and gardeners at no charge.
Their mission is to diminish hunger by diminishing the waste of locally grown fresh food nationwide and as well as climate change, by educating, encouraging and enabling America’s gardeners to donate their surplus harvest to a local food pantry instead of throwing it away or leaving it to rot in the garden.
A number of America’s problems could be diminished or even solved if everyone valued our resources, especially fresh food, as the treasure it really is.
- Currently 8,695 AmpleHarvest.org food pantries across all 50 states in more than 4,100 communities can now receive a sustainable and recurring supply of freshly harvested, locally grown food (many for the first time) from area growers – for free!
- Millions of pantry clients can feed their family fresh instead of processed food thereby reducing the likelihood of diet related illness such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
- Children, now at greater risk of obesity than ever before, are exposed to fresh produce with many learning for the first time that apples do not normally come pre-sliced in cellophane, peas come in pods and not cans and carrots are normally sweet and crunchy.
- Families are introduced to new varieties of food they may have had no prior access to.
- The carbon footprint of the pantries is reduced as locally sourced food (without packaging or cans trucked across the country that need to be disposed of) is used.
- The community waste stream is reduced (taxes too!) as excess food is donated instead of being thrown away thereby also reducing methane emissions (a climate change gas with 20 times the impact of CO2) at trash dumps
- All this occurs at no cost to the donor or the food pantry.
“AmpleHarvest.org is the answer to the classic ‘excess supply not reaching the demand’ dilemma that has up to now resulted in vast amounts of food wasted in millions of gardens across America while the needy in the community remained malnourished and hungry” Gary Oppenheimer, Nov 2010.
They are a unique nationwide nonprofit that is eliminating the waste of food, the outcome being a reduction in hunger and malnutrition along with an improved environment. It is accomplished by using technology to enable 42 million Americans who grow food in home/community gardens to easily donate their surplus harvest to one of 8,695 registered local food pantries spread across all 50 states. These food pantries help nourish the one out of six Americans (including a quarter of all kids under six ) that rely on these pantries.
When AmpleHarvest.org web site was first released in May of 2009, approximately 38 million Americans were listed as food insecure. According to US government statistics that number has increased to more than 42 million people, or one out of every six Americans; this despite the fact that America loses/wastes almost 100 billion pounds of food a year, or about one pound per person per day according to the New York Times.
These people often rely on one of the estimated 33,500+ local food pantries in America to help meet the nutritional needs of their families.
In most communities a food pantry is typically located in a house of worship or similar community building. Usually run by volunteers, these pantries are the final distribution point for food and household items available to those most needing it. Although they are in nearly every community in the country, people in the area who do not need assistance from the food pantry rarely know where it is located.
Food pantries receive the bulk of the food they distribute from periodic deliveries provided by large regional warehouse operations called food banks. The majority of these food banks are part of a nationwide network operated by Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org).
Unlike your local supermarket whose daily food deliveries allows it to stock and sell fresh produce, the less frequent deliveries by food banks means that only canned fruit and vegetables can usually be provided to most food pantries.
Because canned vegetables are often processed with extra salt and fruit with a sugary syrup, either of which can contribute to future health problems (high weight or blood pressure, diabetes, etc), making fresh produce available at food pantries through AmpleHarvest.org helps to significantly lower the future health care costs in America.
While over 42 million Americans are food insecure, more than 42 million Americans, according to the National Gardening Association, grow vegetables, fruit and herbs in their backyard, rooftop, patio and windowsill gardens.
A typical gardener plants their seeds or seedlings and then eagerly waits to begin the harvesting. As the growing season progresses, there will often be a far larger harvest than the gardener can use, preserve or give away to friends.
Historically, most gardeners have disposed of the excess produce, composted it, or left it to rot in their garden.
AmpleHarvest.org provides these gardeners with the opportunity to instead easily find a local food pantry within a specified driving distance that is eager for their garden bounty.
A gardener overwhelmed with a bountiful harvest can go to AmpleHarvest.org to find pantry on the Find A Pantry page. They simply enter their home address or zip code and the number of miles they are willing to travel to a pantry.
AmpleHarvest.org displays a listing of food pantries, sorted by distance, along with a Google map.
Once the pantry has been selected, AmpleHarvest.org displays the desired day[s] of the week and time[s] of day when the pantry can accept donations. It will also show a photograph of the pantry (if provided) along with Google driving instructions from the gardener’s location to the food pantry. Click here to see an example of what the gardener might see.
Donating through AmpleHarvest.org is not limited just to backyard gardeners. Millions of Americans grow tomatoes, cucumbers, berries and other foods on their patio or rooftop. Millions more have homes with fruit trees they planted, or was planted by the previous homeowner. Even urban dwellers find that they can easily grow herbs (fresh chives, parsley, mint, and other herbs are particularly appreciated by pantry clients) in windowsill gardens. Lastly, many food pantries use AmpleHarvest.org to list those store bought items (canned foods, paper goods, toiletries, etc.) they are most in need of, making AmpleHarvest.org helpful to shoppers as well as gardeners.
AmpleHarvest.org is an opt-in directory – only those pantries that choose to participate or are registered by their managing food bank will appear. Since most food pantries find that the garden produce is quickly taken by their clients – often within hours of delivery by the gardeners, refrigerated storage at the pantry is rarely an issue. Food pantries, almost always struggling to meet an ever growing need for food assistance, greatly appreciate the community support AmpleHarvest.org enables them to receive.
AmpleHarvest.org’s core program is called: AmpleHarvest.org. Its work is to reduce food waste by helping to assure that excess garden food gets to local food pantries. This involves two parallel work-flows
- Adding food pantries to the AmpleHarvest.org search engine so they can be found by the gardeners
- Educating home/community gardeners that they can donate food to a local food pantry.
Feds Feed Families
AmpleHarvest.org provides a unique opportunity for employees of the Federal government who happen to be home or community gardeners, to elect to donate fresh food from their garden to a local food pantry, when they participate in the federal government’s own food drive called Feds Feed Families. More at https://www.AmpleHarvest.org/FFF
Food Waste Weekend
Food Waste Weekend (http://www.FoodWasteWeekend.org) is an educational program from AmpleHarvest.org that helps the clergy of all faiths learn about food waste and then enables them to do sermons on the issue. Food Waste Weekend is unique in that it enables clergy of different faiths to give faith specific sermons all on the same issue and all on the same weekend.
Survey Analyzing Garden Food Loss
AmpleHarvest.org completed a two year survey of 2,500 home/community gardeners to determine both food wastage and the food donation opportunity. The results point to 11+ billion pounds of food loss annually (enough to feed 28 million people) with 4 out of every 5 gardeners eager to donate.
Centerpieces for Pantries
AmpleHarvest.org’s annual pre-holiday season program educates and encourages people who are hosting or attending a holiday dinner, to replace the normal table top floral arrangement with an arrangement that is made of whole fruits and vegetables. This arrangement is used for ornamental purposes first, and is then donated to a nearby food pantry the following day. This program can also be used year round at other events such as weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, corporate events, etc. More at https://www.AmpleHarvest.org/Holiday
AmpleHarvest.org has responded to several crises in the past including the BP oil spill, the Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes, Hurricane Harvey, and most recently, the 2018-2019 government shutdown. Most recently as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, AmpleHarvest.org has added the capacity for small farmers to donate food they could not bring to market. In all cases, AmpleHarvest.org shifts its nationwide focus to a more local one, working to help more of the gardeners in the impacted area donate more food to pantries to help the local needs of the people. More at AmpleHarvest.org/crisis.
Food Resource for Food Insecure Families
AmpleHarvest.org helps food insecure families find local food pantries. The key benefit to these families is that the only food pantries listed are those that are also accessible to to local gardeners with excess food. It also helps to connect these families to two partner programs – United Way and WhyHunger.org