Gardeners almost always deal with a good problem to have: what to do with extra produce from the vegetable garden. Donating extra produce to your local food pantry is a great way to share fresh, healthy vegetables with others. But there are some tips to helping out without getting a headache.
Donating Extra Produce to Your Local Food Pantry
The CDC tells us that only 1 in 10 Americans eats enough fresh fruits and vegetables. The Food Trust is working hard to raise awareness around the issue of so-called fresh food deserts, those places typically within an inner city but also in rural areas where purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables is challenging.
And, although we are currently in one of the most prosperous periods in the American economy, with unemployment at a low of 3.8% (May 2018, Bureau of Labor) there are still Americans who lack sufficient food. They may rely on local food banks and pantries to fill gaps left between paying the rent and paying for health insurance, gasoline, and life’s other necessities.
Local Food Pantries Set Their Own Policies
Local food pantries set their own policies when it comes to accepting fresh produce. Many are guided (or limited) by state health laws which specify the types of foods they may accept as donation.
Here in my local area, we are free to donate fresh produce, eggs and fruit to the local food pantries. I have also found that church food pantries are often more accepting of fresh food donations. Our church, St. Theresa in Farmville, Virginia, accepts fresh produce and eggs as donations and feeds anywhere from 10 – 25 families per week with groceries. We have a refrigerator in the church’s commons area, just inside the door, and a large box to accept non-perishable donations.
Other local pantries have specific dates and times when you can drop off fresh food. Call ahead and ask about their policies. Do not just drop off bags of food on their doorstep. They can go to waste or spoil before someone knows they are waiting for them!
Plant or Grow a Row!
America’s Grow a Row Project suggests that each gardener adds one row to the garden plot specifically for vegetables to donate to the poor and hungry. Plant a Row for the Hungry from the Garden Writers Association also suggests this approach. By planning ahead, you can share the bounty with those less fortunate – and help keep America healthy!
Jeanne Grunert is a certified Virginia Master Gardener and the author of several gardening books. Her garden articles, photographs, and interviews have been featured in The Herb Companion, Virginia Gardener, and Cultivate, the magazine of the National Farm Bureau. She is the founder of The Christian Herbalists group and a popular local lecturer on culinary herbs and herbs for health, raised bed gardening, and horticulture therapy.