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Ample Harvest shares leftover garden produce

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Excerpts from AmpleHarvest’s FAQ

Q. What exactly is the AmpleHarvest.org campaign?

A. It is a nationwide effort to diminish hunger in America by making it easy for millions of backyard gardeners across the country to quickly find local food pantries eager to receive freshly picked crops for their clients. AmpleHarvest.org enables gardeners to find food pantries within a specified distance of their home and then view the pantries desired day/time for receiving donations.

AmpleHarvest.org also displays personalized driving instructions to the pantry as well as (if provided) a photograph of the pantry – making it easier to find.

Lastly, for the benefit of gardeners during a non-growing season or anyone else interested in making a donation, AmpleHarvest.org also provides pantries the opportunity to list store bought items they are in particular need of.

Although there are a number of excellent programs that help farmers and community gardens get produce to food banks, AmpleHarvest.org is a national campaign focused on helping local gardeners find neighborhood food pantries.

Q. What is the difference between a food bank and a food pantry?

A. Food Banks are large scale operations that collect and distribute food and other household items to local food pantries, soup kitchens, etc. Food Pantries are local walk-in facilities where families in need go to get food. The typical food pantry operates out of a local house of worship or other civic building. Most of the foods distributed by the pantries are packaged, canned or dry goods. Refrigeration is usually limited to dairy items such as milk and cheese. Produce is rarely available. (In some areas, the term “food shelf”, “food closet”, “food cupboard” or even “food bank” is used to refer to a local food pantry)

Q. How many food pantries are there in the country?

A. No one knows for sure. According to a study by FeedingAmerica.org, in 2006, there were 29,674. By some estimates, there may now be more than 40,000.

Whatever the number, it is too large.

Q. Why don’t pantries offer fresh produce?

A. Unlike supermarkets that get deliveries from food wholesalers daily assuring that you’ll get fresh produce, food banks and other sources do less frequent deliveries of food to pantries. As such, lettuce or tomatoes that looked great on Monday when the food bank got them would be pretty limp or mushy a week later when finally delivered to the local food pantry.

Backyard gardeners however can harvest their produce and deliver it to the pantry on the same day. Furthermore, if the pantry clients pickup the produce that same day, they will benefit from eating food that is even fresher than what can be purchased at a food store.

Q. Why do gardeners grow more food they can use?

A. In an ideal world, gardeners would plant only enough to satisfy the needs of themselves and their friends. The reality of gardening (and farming in general) is that all sorts of things beyond the control of the gardener influence the ultimate size of the harvest. In a growing season with lots of sun, adequate rain, no late or early frosts, no serious pest problems (small pests such as fungus, pests a bit larger such as insects, pests a lot larger such as ground hogs or rabbits, and very large pests such as deer) etc, the grower gets a larger harvest. If however, any of the above appear (more often than not, several can appear at the same time), the harvest is significantly reduced.

Because the gardener never quite knows how good (or bad) the growing season will be, they usually grow more plants than they need–just in case a fungus laden insect traveling in the fur of a deer sized ground hog attacks the garden. The result is that if one or more of these bad things do not attack the garden, the harvest can easily exceed the needs of the grower.

AmpleHarvest.org exists to insure that the extra produce gets to food pantries instead of being left to rot in the garden.

Visit AmpleHarvest’s website here.