How to Donate Produce from Your Garden to a Local Food Pantry

Growing your own produce can result in way more food than you can use, especially if it’s been a good year. It’s not unusual to end up with tons of cucumbers, zucchini, and tomatoes all at once, for example. If you have more fruits and veggies than your family can eat when it’s fresh, you can always try canning or freezing some, but another option is to share your extras with your community. Ample Harvest makes it easy to get started; this nonprofit organization connects home gardeners with local food pantries so you can pass along your excess produce to neighbors in need.

Marty Baldwin

Millions of families across America use food pantries every day. However, it’s usually not easy for food pantries to keep healthy, fresh produce available to all of the people they help. That’s where home gardeners come in; this past spring, victory gardens made a comeback as many people across the country planted their first veggie gardens as an alternative source of food during the pandemic. Now, as summer harvests continue ripening through fall, you may be finding yourself with more than you can keep up with. Ample Harvest can help you put your surplus to good use.

Ample Harvest hosts a database with over 8,700 registered food pantries across all 50 states. To donate some of your produce, all you have to do is enter your zip code on the website. Then, Ample Harvest will show you a list of registered food pantries in your area that accept donations from gardeners. You can get directions and see drop-off instructions for every pantry in your community (because fresh produce doesn’t keep for long, many have specific days when you can donate your garden goodies, or ask that you contact them ahead of time before bringing fresh produce).

Just be sure to follow any coronavirus safety guidelines your food pantry has in place if you decide to donate. Ample Harvest recommends that gardeners wear gloves to pick produce, call ahead before dropping off veggies so everyone can follow social distancing guidelines, and to thoroughly wash all fresh food before eating.

Even if you don’t end up with extra produce this year, you can still help local families in the future. When you’re planting your garden in the spring, try adding just one or two extra plants; then, you can donate the produce from them while still growing enough for your own family to use. Squash plants (including zucchini), cucumbers, and potatoes are just a few examples of plants that produce a lot of food that you can grow to donate.

Sharing already plays a huge role in gardening; you’ve probably swapped seeds with friends before, or shared extra tomatoes with your neighbors before they went bad. With help from Ample Harvest, you can expand your circle of generosity by giving your extra fruits and veggies to neighbors who need fresh food. Home-grown produce is way too delicious to waste, so put your surplus to work feeding local families!

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