MyFreshLocal.com loves AmpleHarvest.org, a site with its own “find and find out” resources that connect gardeners with food pantries. The result is increased access to fresh food for the pantries and less waste for the gardeners.
Founded by Gary Oppenheimer (a CNN Hero, Master GardenerandRutgers Environmental Steward), AmpleHarvest.org helps gardeners who grow more food than they need find food pantry operators who can distribute the extra, rather than letting it go to waste.
Big Ideas for a Big Problem
According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) nearly one in four of nation’s households with children report inability to afford enough food. http://frac.org/reports-and-resources/food-hardship-data/
At the same time, the number of food growers is rising. According to the National Gardening Association 43 million American households are expected to grow their own fruits, vegetables, herbs and berries this year. That's up 19 percent over last year, according to a 2,559-household survey the group conducted in January.
And According to AmpleHarvest.org a staggering “estimated 100 billion pounds of food, enough to totally eliminate hunger, is thrown away annually in the United States. “
That’s enough food to totally eliminate hunger – if the food can get to the right places instead of going to waste. And that is the simple and ambitious idea behind AmpleHarvest.
“The AmpleHarvest.org Campaign is a national effort utilizing the Internet that enables 40+ million Americans who grow food in home gardens to easily donate their excess harvest to one of 4,142 registered local food pantries spread across all 50 states,” as the site explains.
AmpleHarvest.org has its beginnings in 2008 when Gary Oppenheimer became the director of the Sustainable West Milford Community Garden. Oppenheimer discovered that garden plot holders -- like millions of backyard gardeners nationwide -- left large amounts of their garden produce unharvested when they grew more than they could possibly use.
Aware that hunger is a problem in the community, he suggested that the creation of a committee that would help to gather this extra food and deliver it to local food pantries. The program was named Ample Harvest West Milford.
The challenge was to make food pantries easier to find. With small budgets and volunteer forces, most pantries do not have websites or marketing resources.
To address this Oppenheimer created the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign, which he describes as a “new supply-side channel in our national food network that would educate, encourage and enable gardeners with extra produce to easily donate to a local food pantry.
“AmpleHarvest.org gives food pantries the opportunity to register themselves in a central nationwide directory so that gardeners and other donors can share their fresh produce and, garden-by-garden, help diminish hunger in America.”
As of July 2011, more than 4,000 food pantries have registered with AmpleHarvest.org.
No Standing Still
The organization has a lot going on. Just this year, some other significant milestones achieved are noted on the website:
In February 2011, as part of AmpleHarvest.org's effort to do the most good with the least environmental impact, AmpleHarvest.org upgraded to an Internet Service Provider powered 100% by wind power.
In March 2011 the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign was endorsed by the National Council of Churches, thereby helping more of the food pantries in churches across America learn about and participate in the effort.
In April 2011. the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign released its Android app to accompany the previously released iPhone app.
In May 2011. AmpleHarvest.org announced a special outreach effort in the tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa Alabama (and subsequently the Joplin Missouri area) to help improve both the immediate and long-term availability of fresh produce.
In May 2011. AmpleHarvest.org marked its two year anniversary. Currently, there are 4,142 food pantries across America already registered on AmpleHarvest.org. You can view a nationwide map of all registered food pantries by clicking here.
In June 2011. the AmpleHarvest.org web site was completely overhauled to make it even easier to use while giving it a newer, fresher look.
In July 2011, the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign partnered with Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative with the common goal of creating a healthier America. While Let's Move! ecourages people to eat healthier, AmpleHarvest.org actually makes it happen for millions of people who otherwise don't have adequate access to fresh food. AmpleHarvest is highlighted on the White House website here: