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By Jeaneane Payne

The Campaign began in May 2009 and is already providing almost 4,000 food pantries in America with fresh produce. Created by CNN Hero Gary Oppenheimer, the campaign was started to enable growers to share their garden bounty with needy individuals. An online clearing house,, was created to locate neighborhood food pantries that would accept donations of fresh produce. Food pantries in 50 states across the country have signed up.

Local pantries include Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church Food Pantry, 7753 Oak Ridge Highway; Food Connection, 311 Whitecrest Drive, Maryville, TN; HillTop Baptist Food Pantry, 8211 Walker Road; and Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, 922 Delaware Ave.

According to Oppenheimer, "More than 50 million Americans including 1 out of 4 children under the age of six are food insecure, a fancy way of saying that they are hungry or are at real risk of becoming hungry. At the same time, more than 40 million people grow food in home gardens, often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends. It doesn't have to be that way. Our goal is to enable these millions of gardeners to easily find a neighborhood food pantry eager for their excess garden produce. Fresh produce is almost never available at food pantries.

"Gardeners historically have not donated their excess garden produce because they did not know where they could donate (food pantries are usually located in a house or worship or other civic building without a prominent store front, sign or Internet presence) and many food pantries were not willing to accept produce because they lacked the refrigeration they thought they'd need. solves both of these problems by creating an easy to use national registry of pantries and by enabling the food pantries to receive and distribute the produce on a same day/next day basis... solving the refrigeration issue. In short, diminishes hunger in America not by supplying more food but by using the Internet to insure the best possible use of already available local food sources."

A small team of volunteers assisted by many organizations including Google Inc., the USDA, National Gardening Association, National Council of Churches and GreenFaith, the Campaign has been helping neighborhood food pantries become visible to local gardeners at harvest time.

The opportunity for home gardens to help food pantries nationwide is significant said Oppenheimer. "Last August when was only 15 months old, the 460 food pantries that responded to our survey reported collectively receiving in excess of 700,000 pounds of locally grown garden produce, and it was only the middle of the growing season." has a goal of having 10,000 food pantries registered within three years. "It is our goal to enable any gardener anywhere in the country to easily find a neighborhood food pantry when they end up harvesting more from their garden than they can use. This is key to our vision of 'no food left behind'" commented Oppenheimer.

Published May 23, 2011


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