According to the USDA Economic Research Service, nearly 15 percent of all US households experienced some form of food insecurity during 2011. Food insecurity usually involves some level of uncertainty over the source of an individual or family's next meals. At the same time, home gardeners often find themselves with more produce than they can eat, especially during peak season. Despite the fact that there is a need for food and a corresponding surplus of food, it is not always simple or straightforward for home gardeners to donate their extra produce.
Fresh produce is perishable, takes up more space and stacks more awkwardly than boxed convenience food. Therefore, food banks often face challenges being able to store large quantities of fresh food that needs to be refrigerated. As a result, it is usually more complicated for a food bank to handle fresh produce than to handle processed products. Nonetheless, food bank volunteers are often grateful for opportunities to distribute fresh, high-quality vegetables. These organizations often accept fresh vegetable donations, especially if you bring them on days when they are open to the public and they can hand out the produce right away.
Churches often operate kitchens that prepare meals for homeless populations or anyone in need of a meal. Because church food donation activities tend to be decentralized, donating to a church is a matter of finding an individual church that is convenient for you and has volunteers who are willing and able to integrate fresh vegetables into the meals they prepare.
Food Not Bombs
Food Not Bombs (foodnotbombs.net), a grassroots organization dedicated to providing fresh and healthy food to the hungry, cooks in venues such as public parks that allow for preparing and serving simple meals made from largely donated ingredients. The organization's distribution sites are run independently, but freshly grown produce is strongly consistent with its mission. Volunteers are often eager and accommodating when offered access to fresh vegetable donations, even traveling to pick up excess food. The organization's website offers links to information about local chapters throughout the world.
Ample Harvest (ampleharvest.org) is a nonprofit organization founded specifically to address the apparent contradiction between the fact that gardeners often have surplus food and the difficulty they experience donating their produce among poor, marginalized populations. Ample Harvest's website features an interactive map that enables gardeners across the United States to find local food banks that accept fresh vegetables.
Devra Gartenstein is an omnivore who has published several vegan cookbooks. She has owned and run small food businesses for 30 years.