AmpleHarvest.orgIn Friday's Express-News, The Go-To Guy, Kevin Frazzini, wrote a really good column about Ample Harvest, a website where gardeners with too many vegetables can share their bounty with food pantries. This is a very important thing to know. You can go to the Find a Pantry tab, enter your ZIP code and number of miles for your search area, and get a list of nearby pantries.
I had a number of questions last year about whether the Food Bank accepts garden vegetables, and this is the answer. Take your surplus instead to a pantry closer to home. They have registered on this site, indicating they welcome this type of help. You won't drive as far, and you will connect with a neighborhood agency that is helping people in need. You will be building community.
I have to brag on the San Antonio Food Bank, too. It is a world-class, award winning national leader among food banks. They are not a food pantry, so don't go there if you need food. They collect donations and supply food pantries. They have an enormous warehouse near Hwy 90 and Hwy 151 on the west side. They have relationships with grocers and Winter Garden farmers to obtain fresh produce. They even have the 6-acre Spurs Community Garden at their own site.
But a centralized warehouse is not the place to collect random gardeners' random oversupply. Donations to their warehouse should be non-perishable for them to be best able to plan their help for the 400+ agencies they serve in their multi-county region. Donating non-perishables like those listed at the bottom of the linked page above is the kindest way to help them. In addition to sharing your veggies with a pantry, don't forget to donate generously to one of their many food drives, like the National Letter Carriers' drive this Saturday, May 8.
Yesterday, NPR's Morning Edition featured a story about getting local food producers connected with institutional buyers. There are many obstacles to scalability for local food, including adequate supply, pricing, and regulations designed for industrial-sized facilities and transport. The story mentions two efforts originating in Dane County (Madison), WI. One is the Institutional Food Market Coalition, and the other is Local Dirt, a resource employed by that group.
I mentioned Local Dirt (see Highlight #3) in my first post from the CFSC conference in Des Moines last October. Heather Hilleren, who gave the presentation I heard, was mentioned in the NPR on-air story.
Local Dirt is an online tool that provides the ability "to buy, sell, find and feature local food for buyers and sellers of all sizes." For our area, it only contains the farmers' markets that are available to all of these database sites.
But if you put in the zip code 53701, downtown Madison, you get a different picture of what is possible when people organize around a local food system. The map only shows the few Locations that display. Change the list and see the map change. But the main thing is to scroll down and look at the product list. This is the power of Local Dirt, to allow buyers and sellers to order, sell, and manage inventory in one visible, accessible place.
The wheel is invented; let's use it!