MSU Extension launches “Summer Surplus” produce donation campaign in Western Michigan

Funded by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the campaign encourages home gardeners to donate their extra produce to local food pantries.

Margaret Bethel, newly-appointed Michigan State University Extension Director and Master Gardener, helped launch a new public service campaign with Grand Rapids, Michigan’s WZZM Channel 13 to encourage home gardeners to donate their extra produce to local food pantries.

Michigan State University Extension provides resources and education to assist home gardeners produce healthy food for their families. It only makes sense for us to encourage these gardeners to share the fruits of their labor with others,” said Bethel.

The TV media and social media campaign was funded by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation and features vendors from the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, who have donated over 1,000 pounds of fresh produce through the Heartside Gleaning Initiative this summer.

Rob Byrne, Senior Multi Media Consultant with WZZM, developed the campaign based on MSU Extension’s Fresh Produce Donation Guidelines for Gardeners Michigan Fresh fact sheet. This fact sheet is highlighted on the WZZM website and complements the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Summer Surplus page that provides a long list of West Michigan food pantries that accept fresh produce donations.

Encouraging home gardeners to donate produce to food pantries is not a new concept. The Garden Writers Association’s Plant A Row national campaign was launched in 1995, and according to their web site, has resulted in over 20 million pounds of fresh produce donations. In addition, is a web site that connects produce donors with pantry sites.

Lisa Sisson, Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management with Grand Valley State University and coordinator of the Heartside Gleaning Initiative, hopes to work with some Grand Rapids area food pantries to measure the impact of the Summer Surplus campaign. She said, “Summer is often a difficult time of year for food pantries. Many families with children have extra needs due to the lack of regular school meals. Promoting fresh produce donations from home gardeners to food pantries is a worthwhile endeavor that can help low resource families eat healthy foods.”

The Summer Surplus campaign will air from July 18 through mid September 2014. To view the television segment featuring Margaret Bethel, visit

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