My Garden Groweth Over

Editor’s Note: Hunger is real in Land of the Plenty America. The working poor, children and the elderly struggle to feed themselves with diminishing wages and increasing cost of living. Yet waste is real too. Americans waste as much food as they produce according to food champion, Gary Oppenheimer and the share-your-garden-bounty-with-neighbors-in-need program he organized across America: Ample Harvest.org.

About AmpleHarvest:

The Idea

While more than 50 million Americans live in food insecure homes (including a quarter of all children under the age of six), more than 40 million Americans grow fruit, vegetables herbs and nuts in home gardens – often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

The Opportunity

Struggling to feed their families, many Americans, both those chronically economically challenged as well as those now impacted by the economic downturn, have come to rely on the more than 33,500 food pantries (also called food shelves, food closets, food cupboards or food banks in some areas) across America to help feed their families.

These food pantries, relying on donated and purchased foods, almost never have fresh produce and instead rely on canned or processed produce shipped from across the country at significant cost, both economic and environmental.

At the same time, millions of home and community gardeners nationwide with an abundant harvest do not know that they can share their harvest, do not know how to share their harvest and do not know where to share their harvest. AmpleHarvest.org solves that for them.

The Vision

AmpleHarvest.org envisions an America where millions of gardeners eliminate malnutrition and hunger in their own community.

The Mission

AmpleHarvest.org, moving information instead of food to diminish hunger and malnutrition in America, is educating, encouraging and empowering growers to share their excess harvest with the needy in their community instead of letting it rot in the garden.

The Goal

Our “No Food Left Behind” goal is a healthier and by extension, wealthier America.

The Impact

Currently, 5,555 food pantries across all 50 states are registered to receive a sustainable and recurring supply of freshly harvested, locally grown food (many for the first time) from area growers – for free!

In August 2010 (mid harvest) when AmpleHarvest.org was only 15 months old, a survey of then registered food pantries indicated that more than 3 million pounds of freshly harvested locally grown produce had been donated to food pantries. At the end of 2011, it had increased to more than 20 million pounds.

Millions of pantry clients can feed their family fresh food instead of food packaged with added salt and sugar 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.

Gardeners across America enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping their neighbors in need by reaching into their backyard instead of their back pocket.

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, the community or America.

AmpleHarvest.org was founded by CNN Hero Gary Oppenheimer, a Huffington Post’s “Greatest Person of the Day” and “ 2011 Game Changer“, winner of the Russell Berrie Foundation’s “Making A Difference” award, winner of the Glynwood 2011 “Wave of the Future” award, Echoing Green semifinalist. Gary now makes his home in the mountains of northern New Jersey after having lived on a boat on the Hudson River in Manhattan since 1978. He is also a Master Gardener, Rutgers Environmental Steward, former community garden director, Environmental Commissioner in northern New Jersey, an avid gardener and long distance cyclist.

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