Turn Your Garden Overload into A Garden Donation
● By Laura Christman
Garden Bounty Hunters
By Laura Christman
A zucchini plant on a mission is impressive, churning out squash faster than you can say “veggie casserole.” Other garden plants can go into fast-and-furious mode, too. If you end up with an overachieving plum tree, tomato vine or pepper plant this summer, consider turning their productivity into generosity.
Food banks love to receive donations of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Anything that comes out of the garden, we can find someone who would like it,” says Linda Baxter of True North Inc./Grassroots Emergency Food Closet in Shingletown.
Every cucumber counts. With garden donations, it doesn’t matter if the offering is a small bag with a few tomatoes or an overflowing lug of apricots.
“We take whatever people have. We’ll be most grateful,” Baxter says.
Backyard produce is a real plus for food banks because it meshes with messages to eat healthy to be healthy. Marilyn Hanna, food bank manager for Shasta Senior Nutrition Program, says just-plucked items from the garden are always a hit.
“I know the seniors absolutely love to receive produce,” she says. “It’s nutritious and good for you – and is so expensive in the stores.”
“Fresh fruits and vegetables are healthy and good for people to incorporate into their diets,” agrees Mike Mojarro, executive director of Living Hope Compassion Ministries in Redding.
Mojarro is a spokesman for Shasta Food Group, a coalition of food banks, faith-based groups and others in Shasta County working on access to healthy food for all. The coalition supports Plant a Row for the Hungry, a national campaign encouraging gardeners to grow more than they need so surplus can be shared with those in need.
Some gardeners do just that, planning and planting with donations in mind. Others end up wanting to donate because their gardens generate more than they can use. Either way is OK, Mojarro says.
A vegetable donation will sometimes require a bit of culinary education for those who receive it, he notes. He remembers eggplants being perplexing to some recipients.
Lori Coker, nutrition educator with University of California Cooperative Extension CalFresh Nutrition Education Program in Redding, which is part of Shasta Food Group, offers ideas for putting produce into play. She gives presentations at schools, farmers’ markets, special events and for organizations.
“Try it raw. Cook it. Combine it with other vegetables. Use fresh herbs and spices,” she suggests.
When sharing strategies and recipes, one of her messages is to be open-minded. Sometimes people think they don’t like a particular vegetable because they ate an overcooked, mushy version.
“They don’t realize they need to try it more than once,” Coker says.
Food donations are a great way for people to expand their fruit and vegetable repertoire, Coker says, noting people are more willing to try something new if it’s a freebie.
“To me, it tastes better just knowing it is free,” Coker says.
Sharing backyard crops is a simple way for gardeners to make a difference. Consider it an exercise in growing compassion.
“I think donating fresh produce is very valuable. The value is better health,” Coker says.
Gardeners interested in donating crops should make arrangements by directly contacting a specific food bank, church or organization.
If you have a fruit tree with more fruit than you want, Shasta Food Group offers a gleaning service. Volunteers will pick fruit to be donated from trees that have produced more than the owners can deal with. Or it could be a situation where the owners don’t have the time or ability to harvest trees.
“We have specific picking tools, buckets and ladders,” Mojarro says.
To make arrangements for gleaning, call (530) 243-8066.
Shasta Food Group includes:
• Anderson-Cottonwood Christian Assistance
• Bethel Church
• Fall River Mills Food Pantry
• Grassroots Emergency Food Closet, Shingletown
• Good News Rescue Mission
• Hill Country Health and Wellness Center
• Hillside Church/Kids Program
• Igo Ono Community Church
• Living Hope Compassion Ministries
• People of Progress
• Second Baptist Church
• Shasta College
• Shasta County Health and Human Services Agency
• Shasta Lake Community Food Pantry
• Shasta Senior Nutrition Program
• Shepherd’s Heart Community Food Bank
• Skylight Ministries
• Solid Rock Four Square Church, Burney
• Soup Ministries
• The Salvation Army
• Tri-County Community Network, Intermountain Region
• University of California Cooperative Extension