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So, along with giving some of that delicious harvest to neighbors and friends, why not share some garden surplus with those in need too?
A Growing Need for Fresh FoodsThe idea of donating garden harvests to the hungry isn’t new. According to the Garden Writers Association, more than 14 million pounds of vegetables and herbs have been donated by U.S. gardeners to the hungry since 1995. It’s a generous effort and a great start, but there is a big need, as well.
An increasing number of Americans are struggling to feed their families in these rough economic times. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that more than 44 million were using food stamps in February 2011. This represents an increase of 11 million just since 2009. According to Ample Harvest, one in six Americans (including a quarter of kids under 6 years old) isn’t eating fresh foods, despite all the health benefits.
These facts troubled me last summer, so I loaded up a basket of produce from my garden and delivered them to a non-profit organization near me that provides free meals and shelter to thousands of homeless women and children. This hardworking center also provided counseling, addiction recovery programs and more than 96,000 meals to women and kids in the year 2010 alone.
With all these free meals for the community, this non-profit organization could probably use a basket of my heirloom eggplants, tomatoes and peppers, I figured, as well as large bunches of oregano, basil, thyme and mint. I even included a big bag of green tomatoes, in case they were craving some fried green tomatoes too.
To this day, I’m not certain who benefited the most from this experience – the folks who were able to enjoy my garden-fresh foods, or me, because of how great I felt after I dropped off my package. I only know that I’m determined to keep donating my extra produce to help my community.
Want to Share Your Surplus?
If you’d like to help reduce hunger in the United States by sharing your garden surplus, consider these tips:
• First contact Ample Harvest, which connects more than 40 million gardeners with food banks and non-profit organizations across the country. This will save you time finding out which local organizations can best benefit from your donations.
• If you decide to contact a local organization directly, always call first to see if it wants your food donations. If it can’t use your garden surplus, it can tell you who might need your food instead.
• Consider starting a local Plant a Row for the Hungry program with this advice from the Garden Writers Association.
• Read more about how your garden can fight hunger, from Judi Gerber in Care2.com.
• Learn more about hunger in America.