AmpleHarvest.org: York County pantries ready for produce

AmpleHarvest.org enables home gardeners to connect with local food pantries to donate excess produce from their harvests. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Paul Kuehnel)

AmpleHarvest.org enables home gardeners to connect with local food pantries to donate excess produce from their harvests. (Daily Record/Sunday News — Paul Kuehnel)

Home gardeners: Do you ever find yourself with a pile of produce that you don’t know what to do with? Sure, you can freeze it or can it, but maybe you’ve froze and canned enough. Your freezer and cupboards are full. Of course, you don’t want those heirloom tomatoes and green tiger zucchinis to go to waste.

We’ve got a resource for you that can prevent your beloved bounty from spoiling and help people in need — AmpleHarvest.org. The website serves as a database for food pantries and growers, and it enables pantries to provide healthy options to their communities.

Here’s how it works. You have a home garden, and you have some extra broccoli that you won’t be able to use. You log on to the website, plug in your zip code and choose one of the many York County pantries listed to donate your produce to. As of today, there were 21 pantries within 25 miles of York registered.

Terri Rentzel, nutrition education adviser for Penn State Extension, and others have been working to spread the word about Ample Harvest. Rentzel serves on a subcommittee of the Food Availability Task Force. Too often, she said, people who rely on donations receive food that is heavily processed and high in calories, sodium and sugar — which contributes to obesity and chronic diseases. Rarely do pantries receive fruits and vegetables to distribute. Often, she said, pantries are run by volunteers, and might not have resources to transport and store large quantities of produce.

According to Ample Harvest, more than 50 million Americans don’t have adequate access to food, and many rely on the 33,500 food pantries in the U.S. to help feed their families. However, 40 million Americans have home gardens that might produce an extra basket of cucumbers or two.

Although 15 to 20 organizations from York County have registered with Ample Harvest, Rentzel said, she’s unsure if any local gardeners have contributed. She and others tried to promote this program last year, but she said it was too late into the harvest season.

“If they do have some excess, we’re trying to make those connections,” Rentzel said. “It’s just such a great opportunity where nobody loses.”

She said food pantries have recently begun shifting toward providing healthier foods, but progress still has to be made.

“Good, healthy food should not be a luxury,” Rentzel said.

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