{reflections on food} Learning to Share my Food

FarmVisits 030

The start of a new year is a great time to take inventory of the year gone by, and make plans for the year to come.  Some make resolutions, some just reflect. I personally gave up resolutions years ago, after a stint of countless, “This year I WILL exercise…. and eat less cake”. Instead, I now try to just take a look at how the year went, how I spent my time, and if I should make any changes going forward.  {Side note, I often try to clean out closets or organize cupboards as well, hoping for a clean start to the new year. But I digress…]

 As I looked back on last year, I realized that I spent a large chunk of time revolving around food.  I spent time reading recipes, learning about ingredients, planning meals, shopping, cooking, and who can forget food preserving and growing food. The time added up. I spent a lot of time thinking about the food my family eats. I am happy about that though, it is important to me {and you as well, I assume, since you are reading this blog}.  So, as I make plans for this year, I will continue to charge forward in this same direction.  I will continue to provide good food for my family, take care of the environment, and support those who are striving to do the same.  

farmers market artichokes

The one area that I do want to work on though, is to help others with limited resources to have good food choices for their families.  I want to share my love of good food with the people all around me.  Not just with my neighbors. Not just with my friends and family. I know that the food pantries are asking for donations and that many families are on a VERY tight budget.  I feel challenged to help people have the same nutritious food options that I have for my family.  chance to choose fresh fruits and vegetables for their kids. For mothers and fathers to be able to bring home whole wheat bread instead of white bread.  For families to be able to pick up fresh fruit rather than canned fruit, and for organic vegetables to be an option with their meals.  These are people I dont know, but they are part of my community.  This year, I have decided that I need to work harder to share my food with others.  

I have spent time thinking of simple changes I could make to my daily routine which would allow me to share food with people I don’t know.  Small things that I could actually do, that would still bring change, even if it seemed only minor.  I share these with you, in hopes that some of you may become inspired and challenged to do so as well.

Gardens @ The Farmers Museum

Vegetable garden:

          If you have a vegetable garden then consider planting an extra plant, or an extra row, for the sole purpose of donating. Any vegetables that those plants produce you can instantly set aside to bring to a food pantry, or shelter. Often food pantries have a supply of canned goods, but are eager to have fresh, healthy produce to provide to families.  Make sure you call ahead before dropping off fresh produce, to make arrangements. 

          If you have a very small garden and can’t possibly squeeze in another plant, maybe you could gather a few vegetables each week from what you do have. Consider giving away a head of lettuce or a bowl full of tomato, to provide someone else with the produce.  I know that my family reaches a certain point in the summer where they don’t want to see another tomato or zucchini in their meals. I usually end up preserving these, but this year I will be putting some aside and bringing them to the food pantry.  

          If you know of a nearby farmer, offer to help them with work they have, in exchange for vegetables to donate.  Some farmers may be happy to have an extra “picker” in their field for a few hours.  Just ask!

farmers market peppers2

Food Shopping:

When you go grocery shopping consider pick up 1 or 2 extra items that could be donated.  That’s it, just 1 or 2 items per shopping trip.  If you were already planning on buying pasta, how about grabbing an extra box to donate? The plan here is not to double up your whole list, or to fill up a cart of items to donate.  Just select one or two items each shopping trip. Buying one or two extra items wont put a huge dent in your wallet, but will still allow for quality food to be shared with someone else.  

          The non-perishable items that you select to share should be items that you would want to eat, with ingredients you would be happy consuming. I am talking about organic beans and vegetables, oatmeal, whole grain bread, natural/organic peanut butter and jelly, etc. When you get home, set aside the extra item(s)in a bag. Over time the bag will be filled and you will be able to drop it off at a food pantry.  

          If you shop at a farmers market, pick up a few extra fresh items and bring them directly to a donation center while you are out.

          If you shop with coupons, look through your stash of coupons {and the grocery flyers} and see if there are any deals you could get on non-perishable items, to donate.  I have seen how savvy some coupon shoppers can be, and am sure someone could find some sweet deals.  Don’t forget about stores that double and triple coupons. 

          Once you are home, put aside the extra items until you have a full bag ready to donate. {I am looking forward to watching my bag grow as I set aside items each week after shopping!}

The Friendship Garden in Albany

Use your voice and connections:

          If none of these options seem feasible for you, do not underestimate the power of social media.  Ask around if anyone has extra produce from their garden they would be willing to share.  Ask for extra coupons to use.  As we spend our days connecting with others over Facebook, Twitter, blogs, text messages, etc,  mention to others what you are doing to help share food. You never know how you might inspire someone else.  

          Of course, there are many other ways to help out. I have only touched on a few that seemed like an easy way for me to make a start.  Some of you could make food for families you know, volunteer your time at a food pantry or shelter, find a community garden nearby, or start up your own community garden. There may even be existing programs in your community that you could support with your time or money.  

          So, as we all are busy cleaning closets, watching our waistlines and planning for weekends away come summer, let us not forget those around us. May your year continue to be filled with good food, and may you find a way to share that food with others.  I would *love* to hear some of the ideas you have come up with, or are already implementing. Please share them in the comments section, below.

Looking for a food pantry in your area? Check out these links:

Feeding America

Ample Harvest – If you are a gardener and interested in donating produce, Ample Harvest actually has a section for you! 



3 Comments Add yours

  1. narf77 says:

    Unlearning our societal norm of selfishness is a good way to unlock our sense of community. Fostering a well functioning community where everyone is valued is one of the most important ways to weather storms (literally in some cases 😉 ). I love this blog and its ethos. Cheers for sharing ideas with us all and from sunny Tasmania, Australia, I thank you 🙂

  2. BETSY says:

    Great ideas Becky!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Gleaning organizations are also an easy way to both help provide fresh food to those in need without having to network individually with farmers. I don’t know if there is one in your area, but there’s an active group in the Boston area. My previous community garden participated in a project with other community gardens that donated over 5,000 lbs of produce to food pantries per year, and it gave our group a unity that may not have otherwise emerged in the garden with relatively low investment. Our single weekly tub of food may not seem like much, but added together, it made a difference in some families lives.

    One comment about starting community gardens: the dynamic of needing alternative food resources and having time/interest to garden often doesn’t align well. That was part of the reason our donation program was helpful while starting gardens alone was less useful in meeting demand.

    Another comment is to consider who will be eating the food you donate: tofu may be more welcome in an Asian community than pinto beans, or butternut squash more familiar than bok choy. Ask who they serve– we were serving the Haitian community and were able to plant more appropriate foods the second year the program ran.

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