I had perpetual garden dirt under my fingernails through April, May and much of June. Finally, the last two weeks, the hoe has done most of the dirty work and my hands are less filthy and caloused. I work in two gardens, one at home for my family and one a donation garden. Through the donation garden, we have already had several bags of lettuce, parsley and swiss chard to give away. This week, we had large zuchini and pimply crook neck squash to add to the mix. Tomatoes, beets and turnips will be ready shortly. This is the third season with the donation garden and the produce is more beautiful and healthy than the previous years. We have teamed up with a non-profit group home and a food pantry to regularly distribute the produce, which I learned, this year, is quite common.
In my work with the Colorado No Kid Hungry campaign, I started working with Produce for Pantries last fall. Produce for Pantries (P4P) is a coalition that works to connect home and community gardens with food pantries and food banks. For P4P’s introductory year, summer 2012, they worked only in the Denver Metro area to make connections and track donations. During the winter, we were able to connect P4P with Hunger Free Colorado’s Hunger Free Hotline so that for summer 2013, gardeners statewide can call the hotline and locate the nearest pantry that accepts produce donations.
Amazing as the statewide connection is, that is not the only production that happened during the sleepy winter months. A coalition of P4P supporters, led by LiveWell Colorado, developed a guide for local fresh food donations, Local Food for Local Need: A Guide to Food Donation for Colorado Gardeners. Those interested in making fresh food donations can look to the guide for direction in recruiting a network, connecting with food pantries, ensuring food safety and spreading the word.
As your fridges pile up with excess zuchini and other delicious produce from neighbors and friends this harvest season, I encourage you all to find a nearby pantry by calling 855-855-4626. Let’s commit to not waste what others need this year.