8 Ways Gardeners Can Help The Hungry

This holiday season let's share the bounty—literally.

November 3, 2015
A gift of radishes
GWYN PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY

1. Deliver Results
Become a Food Runner and help ferry excess from restaurants to shelters and food banks. Look for an organization near you at blog.foodrunners.org.

Related: How To Start A Garden At Your Local School

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2. Plant More Than You Need 
The Garden Writers Association encourages individuals to grow extra food for soup kitchens. Since 1995, the group’s efforts have yielded more than 20 million pounds of donated produce. To get involved, contact par@gardenwriters.org.

3. Show Off Your Stroganoff 
Many people in households living on a tight budget see healthy eating as important but don’t know how to wrangle meals from scratch. Volunteer to teach families how to cook and shop for healthy meals at cookingmatters.org.

4. Give What You Grow 
If you’re already harvesting more cherry tomatoes or eggplant or pattypan squash than you need, Ample Harvest maintains a registry of more than 7,500 local food programs where gardeners can donate their surplus crops. 

5. Get Your Hands Dirty 
To supplement donated items, food banks across the country cultivate produce, much of it organic—and all of them need help. New Yorkers can plant and weed at Brooklyn Rescue Mission’s organic farm and greenhouse. And Wisconsin gardeners help out at the 200-acre farm of the Milwaukee-based Hunger Task Force. Find a local row to hoe through the American Community Gardening Association.

6. Get Someone Else’s Hands Dirty
Volunteers teach organic gardening skills at the Sacramento Food Bank’s demonstration garden. In the Pacific Northwest, gardeners can lead Seed to Supper, a course offered through the Oregon Food Bank. Elsewhere, home growers can contact their local horticultural society for teaching opportunities.

7. Pick Up the Dinner Tab 
Every dollar donated to Feeding America provides 11 meals through a nationwide network of food banks.

8. Don’t Forget the Leftovers
A whopping 133 billion pounds of conventionally grown food, passed over by mechanical harvesters or deemed too unsightly for supermarket shelves, never makes it out of the fields. The Gleaning Network mobilizes volunteers to hand-harvest leftover crops, scavenging 18 million pounds of free food for pantries from farms last year. 

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