23 May 2010

Surplus Food to Those in Need

Grow Your Own to Share

How easy is it to share your surplus produce from your garden? Spread the word and get your local food pantry registered. Even if you're not a gardener, you can be the conduit for excess food to meet up with those who need it!

Nearly 15 percent of American households have difficulty meeting their food needs. A new study shows that NZ Superannuation payments aren't enough to live on. Many people are short by $30-plus every week. Those who rely on food pantries are often surviving on canned and
processed foods.
Maggie Berry reports that , "There is now a noticeable shift back to growing our own vegetables. After a lean few years of a gardening downturn, garden centres happily report a huge surge in sales of fruit trees, seeds and vegetable plants."

Statistics New Zealand reports that the prices for fruit and vegetables rose 18% in 2008, with the cost of lettuce rising nearly 140% and broccoli 110%.

The overall increase in prices in the past few years has provided another incentive for people to grow their own produce. The New York Times report that seed and produce companies have not seen such an interest in growing food at home since the rampant inflation of the 1970s.

Simon Thompson, sales and marketing general manager for Zealandia, one of New Zealand's largest wholesalers of plants and commercial seedlings, says the edible-garden trend is “very big. Products are just going out the door, which is a good sign, really – it’s telling me that people are wanting to grow their own food and they also want to know what’s been sprayed on it.” Click here for Sustainable Living information in Auckland.

With 41 million U.S. households growing fruits and
vegetables, there ought to be more sharing between the haves and the have nots.

"Whether it's a hanging tomato plant off your apartment terrace, or a garden ... or whether you run a farm, we all have food that's left behind," Gary Oppenheimer said. "That's the food that ... we can get into the system to help diminish hunger in the country.


"Nearly 2,000 food pantries across the United States are now registered on the site AmpleHarvest.org

CNN Reports: In 2007, Gary Oppenheimer had a backyard garden produced a bountiful harvest with a surplus of spaghetti squash, melons, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers for his family. At the end of the season, Oppenheimer had 40 pounds of excess fresh produce -- and nowhere to take it.

"Nobody wanted more," he said. "My wife wouldn't let me bring any more in the house, and I didn't want it wasted."

Oppenheimer took the fruit and veggies to a local food pantry at a battered-women's shelter. When he dropped off the food, he was thanked profusely. "As I left she said, 'Now we can have something fresh to eat,' "

Oppenheimer recalled. "That stuck with me because I remember walking away thinking, 'What? They have canned stuff only all the time?' "

The experience led Oppenheimer, 57, to create a way for gardeners across the country to easily share their excess produce with hungry families in their communities. He learned that toward the end of the summer, plots were often abandoned and good food was sometimes left to rot.

He tried to find a list of his town's local food pantries online where the extra produce could be donated. A Google search showed the nearest food pantry was in another town, 25 miles away -- when in fact there were six food pantries in Oppenheimer's town of West Milford, New Jersey.

Oppenheimer knew he had stumbled upon a gap in information that could rescue fresh produce from a wasteful end and potentially save lives."I realized that if I'm having this problem as a gardener, then other people across the country must be having the exact same problem," he said. "I got up the next morning, and I went on the internet, and I grabbed the domain of AmpleHarvest.org."

See what networks exist in your community, or create one. It's a simple social justice initiative that we can all participate in.

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