So your 10 foot row of green beans has produced 20 pounds of beans – all at once! And more are on the way. How you can share the bounty?
Most food pantries are happy to accept donations of fresh produce, but may have little space to store or display vegetables. Community lunch programs often put their menus together weeks in advance, so spur of the moment additions of fresh vegetables are not easy to accommodate. Here are some tips to smooth the process.
- Contact your local food pantry (resources listed below) before showing up with a donation. Aviva Gold, associate director of Gardenshare, suggests calling a few days ahead to offer, for instance, a basket of tomatoes to give away. Talk to a pantry volunteer to arrange a drop-off time that doesn’t require produce to be refrigerated over night.
- Plan to bring your surplus to the distribution site yourself – don’t expect the food program to send someone to pick the vegetables. Food pantries are staffed by volunteers, most of whom do not have the time or experience to harvest from your garden.
- Wash and sort the veggies at home, culling produce that is bruised or beginning to wilt. Again, the volunteers will not have the time and facilities to sort through the “seconds.” If you have a large amount of one item, packing it in bags or containers sized for one family – a pound of beans, 2 or 3 zucchinis – is helpful.
- Describe how to cook and eat the produce that you’ve brought to food pantry staffers and clients. Members of the First Presbyterian Church in Saranac Lake who cultivate a plot in the Common Ground garden set up a card table next to the ecumenical food pantry on distribution days to provide information along with the vegetables they donate.
Resources for finding your local food pantry:
- Gardenshare maintains a list of contacts for St Lawrence county food pantries on its website, here.
- The Adirondack Daily Enterprise lists Tri-lakes food programs in its Community Resource Directory and on its website, here.
- The Food bank of Central New York covers Jefferson, Lewis and Herkimer counties, as well as some further south. Find the link, here.