The next time a friend says thanks, but no thanks, to your latest offering of homegrown zucchini, think about donating it. You could join the network of organizations across the country that directs unused food toward the nation’s hungry. Food Forward, founded by Rick Nahmias and manned by hordes of volunteers, has gleaned tons of fruits from farms in Southern California to be distributed to food pantries. They post regular schedules on Facebook so volunteers can meet to pick fruit.
Plant a Row for the Hungry, launched in 1995 by the Garden Writers Association, works nationwide through community volunteers and gardeners to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to food banks, the homeless and the hungry. In 15 years, PAR has moved more than 14 million pounds of produce to those in need.
Closer to home, Yvonne Scott and Debbie Dapson are the coordinators for Giving Gardens, PAR’s Bernalillo chapter. Scott meets me at The Source community wellness center, where she is the master gardener. She tells me, “Sharing food with strangers is a ritual as old as humankind. It is part of every culture, religion, ethnic group and society in the world.” In New Mexico, according to Scott, nearly 40,000 people seek food assistance every week.
“Sharing food with strangers is a ritual as old as humankind. It is part of every culture, religion, ethnic group and society in the world.”
Yvonne Scott, coordinator for Giving Gardens
Donating a portion of your garden, be it a backyard or a farm, goes further than you can imagine. Giving Gardens partners with Roadrunner Food Bank, the largest food distribution program in New Mexico. But there are many ways to share your harvest. We’re all familiar with holiday requests for nonperishable items. Giving Gardens emphasizes the need for fresh, nutritious foods that are sorely lacking in the diets of recipients. Produce raised without pesticides is preferable, but all donations, even small amounts of extra produce, are welcome.
Giving Gardens can provide information to anyone wishing to donate or organize a neighborhood effort. Donors can work with the group or give directly to local pantries or shelters.
• Dig into the Giving Gardens program by contacting Scott or Dapson at firstname.lastname@example.org and obtaining a brochure and a row marker for your garden. Giving Gardens coordinators will be happy to meet with you or your community, church or school to schedule a speaking engagement. Plan ahead so that next year’s zucchini patch will have a marker dedicated to Plant a Row for the Hungry.
• You can find a list of food providers nearest you at nmfoodbanks.org. Call the provider to learn when it’s open and what types of produce it accepts.
• Roadrunner Food Bank will use every fruit, vegetable and herb you can bring. Contact Roadrunner for information on when and how to donate. Find detailed information on its website: rrfb.org/par_program.htm.
• To learn more about fruit foraging, see fallenfruit.org/index.php/media/maps, which shows maps of public fruit trees in many cities, including Santa Fe. The websites neighborhoodfruit.com and forageoakland.blogspot.com provide information on how to legally, courteously and effectively create a fruit foraging group in your neighborhood.