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Thread: Food waste from gardens gong to pantries

  1. #1
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Food waste from gardens gong to pantries

    Talk about your experiences with this topic. Some of you work with food pantries.

    I have decided opinions living as I do in Vegetable Central. My opinion is about the rainbows and
    kittens nature of “AmpleHarvest’ “* assumptions, but hey, that is just me, cranky gardener extraordinaire with some history with food SJWs.






    http://ampleharvest.org/

    * AmpleHarvest is an organization that that helps millions of gardeners connect with 8,000 food pantries.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    I've worked with a food pantry affiliated with the church I was attending at the time--they took donations but got 80% of their donations from a county central distribution point.

    But this year I do plan on volunteering at a garden that's designated as a "hunger garden" at the county Cooperative Extension site where I get my Master Gardener training. See the description:

    The many demonstration gardens found in the park, installed and tended to by Master Gardener volunteers and extension staff, are a valuable tool in teaching residents about horticulture, agriculture and nutrition. During the growing season there are many display gardens to experience. The enormous vegetable gardens brim with vegetables, from the exotic to New Jersey’s familiar favorites. Visitors can see the best growing practices for their backyard efforts; learn about heirloom varieties and beneficial insect attracting plants. Much of the produce harvested here goes to food banks such as Exxx Pxxx or Farmers Against Hunger. \

    Now, I've also done some volunteering (not much) for Exxx Pxxx (don't want to mention the name in case they get "pinged". Here's what they say:

    Our Community Soup Kitchen in NB serves almost 300 meals a day and over 100,000 meals a year to individuals who would otherwise go hungry. We serve all who come through our doors and take pride in preparing the most delicious and healthy meals possible for our guests.

    During the growing season, Exxx Pxxx works diligently to “rescue” food from local farms, farmers markets, and gleaning programs through partnerships with Farmers Against Hunger NJ and New Brunswick Rotary. These efforts enable us to source Jersey Fresh produce at both our salad and hot food bar.

    In my mind, this is a good example of one entity having surplus going to another entity that needs it. Exxx Pxxx has an excellent chef training program--and in fact, their executive chef was on Chopped once!

    I'd love to hear your "curmudgeonly grumblings." I'm guessing you've seen a lot of food wasted?
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  3. #3
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catherine View Post


    ...I'd love to hear your "curmudgeonly grumblings." I'm guessing you've seen a lot of food wasted?
    I will reveal my grumblings at a later time after more input. But here is a hint: your response was a lot of kittens. And a few rainbows.

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    Hubby works as delivery for a small local food pantry open one day a week. Issue with produce is 1. getting it in edible form, 2. cleaning, sorting and processing as necessary, 3. storing properly for the # of days until distribution and 4. getting the clients to take it and use it.

    They can use standard supplies like potatoes and such but one time they got a bag of turnips and no one wanted them. Perishable items are a problem. Our big distribution center hands out produce on Friday and it has to be stored until Thursday. Refrigerated space is limited. Some (at times a lot) is already spoiled or molding when received.

    Would be nice to have a selection but the whole system for a small food bank does not work well for perishables.

    We do have a huge Second Helpings which turns leftover foods of all kinds into meals. https://www.secondhelpings.org/what-we-do/ They are perfect for garden/farm produce. They are set up to process, store, and use it efficiently.

    Keep in mind, I am in a big city and have very incomplete information. I can see this working well in small cities/towns where the food bank is an integral part of the community and there are sufficient people to process the food.

    Note: the use of fresh food requires at times some education. If you have never used it, it can be a learning process. I remember a friend who is a chef set up a salad bar at the local domestic violence shelter. He also cooked a lot of food from scratch. He is very very good. A comment he got one day was "can't we just have hotdogs?"

  5. #5
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sweetana3 View Post
    Hubby works as delivery for a small local food pantry open one day a week. Issue with produce is 1. getting it in edible form, 2. cleaning, sorting and processing as necessary, 3. storing properly for the # of days until distribution and 4. getting the clients to take it and use it.

    They can use standard supplies like potatoes and such but one time they got a bag of turnips and no one wanted them. Perishable items are a problem. Our big distribution center hands out produce on Friday and it has to be stored until Thursday. Refrigerated space is limited. Some (at times a lot) is already spoiled or molding when received.

    Would be nice to have a selection but the whole system for a small food bank does not work well for perishables.

    We do have a huge Second Helpings which turns leftover foods of all kinds into meals. https://www.secondhelpings.org/what-we-do/ They are perfect for garden/farm produce. They are set up to process, store, and use it efficiently.

    Keep in mind, I am in a big city and have very incomplete information. I can see this working well in small cities/towns where the food bank is an integral part of the community and there are sufficient people to process the food.

    Note: the use of fresh food requires at times some education. If you have never used it, it can be a learning process. I remember a friend who is a chef set up a salad bar at the local domestic violence shelter. He also cooked a lot of food from scratch. He is very very good. A comment he got one day was "can't we just have hotdogs?"
    This is pretty much what I was thinking, despite my lack of first hand experience with food pantries.

  6. #6
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    There are only certain veggies and fruit that I eat so maybe that is part of the problem. It might be better to give them to soup kitchens and they could use them in recipes.

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    Senior Member KayLR's Avatar
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    My hubs has worked (as an employee) for our large food bank distribution center which stores food from Second Harvest and from stores who opt into that cooperative effort. They also get donations from local farmers and large church partnership gardens.

    There is some waste, (like the turnips) and if someone donates say, something like a huge amount of unlabeled, frozen fish or meat (I remember them getting a whole bunch of frozen not-labeled rabbit) it cannot be accepted. It must have some kind of USDA label if it's packaged.

    The good thing this large warehouse food bank does is offer cooking, food prep and menu planning classes for clients of the food banks they distribute to. They have a huge industrial kitchen and classroom. They're well-attended and I think this is a huge service.
    My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already!

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    Hey KayLR, tell you hubby thanks from us. We have both Midwest Food Bank and Gleaners here. Gleaners is so huge they have a completely enclosed space to pick up food that can hold maybe 6 or more semi tractor trailers at one time. Our little pickup truck is dwarfed. They even do delivery for some of the areas and food banks.

    The education part is so important and also important to know or try to know what limitations the clients have with cooking knowledge and even equipment. Some don't have refrigerators or stoves. I will always remember one family that was one of the Christmas families my husband's company sponsored. She asked for pans to cook with.

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    We have a community garden where customers can request fresh veggies, herbs and sometimes fruit during pick up. Some people love the garden and are delighted with the range and generousity. Some people would rather have hot dogs.

    There are a lot of locals who bring us garden surplus. There are also a lot of rules. Some things we can put out “free choice” on the tables in the front room, some we leave in a wagon outside the food bank and tell people “you’re welcome to whatever you want from there. That isn’t ours. Someone left it.” (Because rules) sometimes the volunteers take stuff that is going unclaimed. jim’s pigs and my chickens and jackie’s Chickens get a lot of spoiled food.

    Most of the spoilage comes from the grocery stores though. - they often send us veggies that are already limp and wrinkly because they failed to sell in the discount bin, bread starting to go moldy, bread that is stale, bread that looks like a cow laid on it, meat in questionable colors.... then they demand an accounting of it so they can brag about how much food they donated and waste they avoided. But we also get good stuff from them, and as my dad often reminded me “beggars can’t be choosers.”

    besides, they feed the chickens and the eggs are always snapped up and appreciated.

  10. #10
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    The Second Harvest at which I volunteer does a lot with "food rescue", but it's done a lot differently than the "Uber/Tinder" model that AmpleHarvest seems to be using.

    Food of all kind is rescued: non-perishables contributed by the public or by grocers, meat and fish from those same grocers (pulled at sell-by and frozen for shipment to SH), and prepared food that can find a home at shelters, etc. (more than 75 tons of prepared food and ingredients were reallocated from Super Bowl events throughout town in February).

    Produce, however, follows a tighter path, largely for the areas KayLR mentioned.

    There are weekly fresh-food distributions at various "food desert" schools in the metro area, which include grocery rescue from every department (we've even had decorated cakes no one picked up). This is, in my experienced opinion, the least efficient distribution method as it requires collection by store employees who (depending on the grocery chain involved *cough* Walmart *cough*) sometimes don't sort the obviously bad stuff or give a damn about out-of-category items that get stuffed into the donation boxes, fairly tight pickups by SH trucks at the store because the produce can't sit, and then a little rearrangement on the trucks that pick up so they can send just two to the fresh-food distribution.

    This SH actually contracts with some farmers to grow produce they know they can "sell" to clients. They also recently started a pilot program growing greens hydroponically in old semi-trailers (controlled environment) to improve the consistency of what's offered (especially up here where greens year round means trucking them in thousands of miles). Maybe it's a matter of scale or that some approaches are better for food shelves/pantries than they are for the food banks that supply the shelves/pantries, but leaving to chance that a gardener will successfully grow enough for the organization to count on having the item on hand ... well, I guess that's the rainbows part.

    These SH folks are sharp -- they have a good sense of what clients want and know that there's little percentage in expending space and staff/volunteer time on food people rarely take. The hydroponics initiative is a response to a wish to improve nutrition knowing that it's easy to put a salad on the table or to provide lettuce for wraps/tacos/burgers and that there is a historic demand for cooked greens. This same demand does not necessarily exist for turnips or radishes or even fresh green beans. There is the issue of clients not knowing how to use certain foods (at one produce drop my job was to "sell" cartons of peeled garlic and I did it because I know a variety of dishes in which it's used and how to preserve the part of the container that's not used right away: "'dja know you can freeze garlic cloves?")

    But my (again, experienced; been doing this a while) opinion is that the model AmpleHarvest is using is idealistic and more of a "we solved the problem by writing an app" solution that does not address real issues behind food choices.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

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