Home gardeners can donate produce to food pantries

Plan now to grow extra produce to help alleviate hunger in your community.

If you are like me, you can hardly wait to get your hands dirty in the garden. Starting seeds and sorting through seed catalogs is a great way to get a head start on gardening season. Another way to stay active is to plan your garden layout. There are many different garden designs and planting techniques to consider when planning a fruit and vegetable garden. Michigan State University Extension provides lots of great resources for gardeners available through your local MSU Extension office and online. 

If you want to be able to share produce with your neighbors and people in your community who may not be able to afford fresh fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, be sure to plan for a few more plants of each type in your garden layout. Planting extra produce typically isn’t a big expense and it is a great way to help people in your community eat healthier. 

Food banks and pantries generally welcome donations of fresh produce from home and community gardeners, but it is important to check with them before making a delivery. Stop by and ask them whether they can accept the produce at their site, what days and times are best for delivery, and whether they need the type of produce you have to donate. (Some days accepting ten bags of zucchini just isn’t feasible for even the largest food pantry.) 

Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan Fresh campaign recommends following these steps when selecting, handling, storing and transporting the produce you plan to donate: 

  1. Offer only good quality, freshly picked produce.
  2. Handle fresh fruits and vegetables safely to minimize the risk of foodborne illness.
  3. Don’t mix produce types. Keep each in a separate, clean, food-grade container or bag.
  4. Clean as much mud and dirt as possible off the produce you plan to donate.
  5. Choose produce that has no signs of mold, spoilage, bruising or insects.
  6. Dry your produce with clean paper towels. 

Are you worried about your liability if you donate produce? Gardeners who donate food to nonprofit organizations for people in need are protected from criminal and civil liability by the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. This act was signed into law in 1996 by President Bill Clinton. 

To find a food pantry in your area search online, check your local phone directory or contact a local church.

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