If you are anything like me, this is the time of year when you never want to eat another squash or zucchini again. I feel like Bubba from Forrest Gump when describing the many ways I have eaten summer vegetables: boiled squash, fried squash, squash casserole, broiled squash, roasted squash, grilled squash, squash soufflé…you get the point. Yes, the thought of spring and summer vegetables is a wonderful thought to bring you out of the winter blues, but when it gets down to it, enough is enough. I have been so busy lately harvesting my garden despite the heat and humidity, and it makes me sad that I cannot eat enough produce to keep up with my garden. My first solution was to give my neighbors the produce, which worked great for three weeks, but suddenly no one is home when I come by with a bushel of squash for them. A ton of work went into researching, preparing, planting, weeding, spraying, praying, and harvesting to let all that produce spoil.
I was recently introduced to a local food ministry that accepts fresh fruits and vegetables. I was given a tour of the facility, shown how they operate, and told when donations would be picked up. I made my first delivery about a month ago and have been going by each week, sharing my summer bounty. Yes, donating the produce helps me solve my problem of getting rid of it, but I am overjoyed when I see how excited the staff is when I come by or hear stories of how people in need are getting access to fresh fruits and vegetables. I have already committed to planting a few more rows for the fall season to share with my neighbors in need. You may not need to have bushels upon bushels of produce to make a difference.
I cannot tell you how satisfying it is, knowing that something you love doing is truly making your community better. I feel certain that local ministries, soup kitchens, food banks, churches, or community centers in your area would love some of your garden’s provisions. Get on the phone, internet, community pages, or call your local Extension agent to find local food ministries in your area.
Here are a few tips to remember when donating food to a local food ministry:
- communicate, communicate, communicate…communication is key
- get to know your local ministry, staff, and volunteers- the more you know, the more invested you will be in their mission
- plan donations around and near dates when donations are to be picked up
- make sure produce is of high quality and free of diseased or insect laden tissue
- make sure there is a place to store fresh produce (coolers, pantry, shaded areas)
- make sure the ministry can handle the volume that is being brought in
- sort produce into individual containers or bags to reduce the workload of the staff