Are vegetables from your garden overflowing in abundance? If you are like me, the zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and other vegetables overwhelm you once they begin producing. Maybe you eat your fill, can, freeze and give to family and neighbors and still have more than you can use. Well, there is an opportunity for you to share that wealth of fresh vegetables with others in our community who are “food insecure.”
Join the Connect, Grow, Share a Row project, a partnership of Linn County Master Gardeners and the HACAP Food Reservoir. Locally grown food from personal gardens and identified Master Gardener Community Garden Partners is donated to the Food Reservoir to be distributed to help nourish our community. Every pound of produce makes an impact in the fight against hunger. Last growing season more than 3,000 pounds of fresh produce was donated to HACAP as part of the first year of this project. The project is part of a mini grant received by the Linn County Master Gardeners from Iowa State University Extension Program in Ames.
The HACAP Food Reservoir’s mission is to feed hungry people across a seven county service area (Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Jones, Johnson, Linn and Washington counties) through their 126 partner agencies (nonprofit food pantries, service organizations or feeding programs). In fiscal 2017, HACAP Food Reservoir distributed about 6.3 million pounds of food through these partner agencies. In Linn County alone, more than 25,000 people have been identified as living with not enough food to eat.
Fresh produce is integral in the fight against hunger. So what are some of the best vegetables to donate? Top recommendations are tomatoes, zucchini, winter squash, potatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, melons, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots and beans. If possible check with the food pantry before donating. Some possible vegetables to plant now for a fall harvest include peas, lettuce, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, kohlrabi and onions.
Just a few tips for donating produce:
• Always handle fresh produce safely to minimize risk of foodborne illness.
• Offer high quality, freshly picked fruits/vegetables.
• Do not donate produce that is overripe, has mold, bruising, spoilage or insect damage.
• Use pesticides minimally and carefully, following label instructions.
• Harvest produce early in the morning.
• Wipe or rinse mud/dirt from produce. Avoid excessive washing as it removes some of the natural protective coating and will cause earlier spoilage.
To participate in the local Connect, Grow, Share a Row project, contact the Linn County Extension Office at (319) 377-9839 or HACAP Food Reservoir at (319) 393-7811.
For gardening questions call the Linn County Extension Hortline at (319) 447-0647 from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays.