From Seeds to Good Deeds: Backyard GardenShare Fights Local Hunger
By Frances Dingivan
Did you know that the average American wastes about one pound of food per day? Or that backyard gardeners throw away about 10 billion pounds of food per year in the United States? Even half of that produce could feed 14 million people. Meanwhile, more and more people are going hungry. 1 in 5 Utah children experiences food insecurity. Additionally, refugee and immigrant populations in Utah are growing, with more people finding themselves in need of food. Luckily, we have the solution in our own backyards.
Initially dubbed GardenShare, this program began when the founder (and avid runner), Pat Thomas, noticed food going to waste in people’s gardens on her running route. It originally operated as a part of the Green Urban Lunch Box’s network of programs but has since become its own independent nonprofit, Backyard GardenShare. The program relies on volunteers to grow, donate, and transport extra produce from backyard gardens to food pantries that distribute fresh fruit and vegetables to community members who need it.
Backyard GardenShare has a network of locations around the valley where you can drop off your donations, most of which are the private homes of residents. Donations are transported to various distribution sites “in or near each community participating. This way, the food stays close to where it was grown and is helping people in the same community” says Thomas. Look for the collection site nearest you by clicking here.
There are many ways to get involved with Backyard GardenShare.
- For growers, you can bring extra produce from your own garden (or from your groceries) to the nearest collection site. Designate a plant, a pot, or a row in your garden to grow extra food for donation. According to the Green Urban Lunch Box’s website, just one tomato plant can grow between 20 to 40 tomatoes in a season, and some fruit trees produce about 200 pounds of fruit each year. Even a small percentage of those yields could provide fresh produce for many people. No donation is too small or too great.
- For those without a garden, you can still help out by registering your home as a collection site. Many people have plenty of food to donate, but no time to transport it to a food pantry or to the Utah Food Bank. By providing a nearby space for people to drop off their produce and transporting the food you receive, you can facilitate the donation of hundreds of pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste. Email Pat Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org to register your home.
- Some residents may be unable to maintain their gardens or to harvest what they grow. Offer to help out and deliver any surplus to a nearby collection site.
- You can also help out by raising awareness among your neighbors about Backyard GardenShare. Deliver flyers to your neighbors to let them know about a nearby collection site or tell your friends about Backyard GardenShare in person or on social media.
If you decide to donate or transport food, there are some important things to note. First, only donate food that you would want to eat. Second, make sure the food you donate has at least three days of life left. It’s helpful if you do not wait until the end of the work week to drop off your food. Otherwise, food sits over the weekend and loses its freshness and nutritional value. A third thing to note is that separating your donations by type makes it easier for them to be organized and distributed.
Consider participating in Backyard GardenShare today. It’s an easy way to put your excess harvests to good use and to connect with your neighbors. There are so many ways to get involved, and, ultimately, help care for your community. Check out their website, www.backyardgardenshare.org, to learn more about how you can get involved.