celebrates third anniversary

| 24 May 2012 | 01:42

    WEST MILFORD — The Campaign, created by CNN Hero Gary Oppenheimer in March 2009 and rolled out nationally seven weeks later in May, is celebrating its third birthday.

    The Campaign was originally created to help growers share their garden bounty with those in need by providing an online clearing house ( to locate neighborhood food pantries accepting donations of freshly harvested produce. More than 5,100 food pantries (1 out of every 7 in America) spread across all 50 states have registered on the free site and more are signing up daily. A national map of the registered food pantries can be viewed at

    Created by a small team of volunteers and assisted by many organizations including Google Inc., the USDA, National Gardening Association, National Council of Churches and many more, the Campaign has been working to help neighborhood food pantries become visible to local gardeners at harvest time.

    “More than 50 million Americans including 1 out of 4 children under the age of six are food insecure, a fancy way of saying that they are hungry or are at real risk of becoming hungry," said Oppenheimer. "At the same time, more than 40 million people grow food in home gardens, often more than they can use, preserve or give to friends. It doesn’t have to be that way. Our goal has been to enable these millions of gardeners to easily find a neighborhood food pantry eager for their excess garden produce. Fresh produce is almost never available at food pantries."

    The opportunity for home gardens to help food pantries nationwide is significant said Oppenheimer. “Last year, registered food pantries reported collectively receiving in excess of 20 million pounds of locally grown garden produce.”

    Food banks, large warehouse operations that supply America’s 33,500 food pantries, have been very enthusiastic about’s work. Not only does the model actually cut their operating costs, notes Jennifer Gilmore, executive director of Feeding America San Diego - the largest distributor of donated food in San Diego County and one of the most efficient non-profits in the nation, “ offers everyone an easy way to help families struggling to keep food on the table. You should see the smiles the fresh fruits and veggies bring. is a ‘why didn't I think of that’ idea! Talk about a win-win concept - connecting gardeners with families struggling to keep food on the table.”

    “Gardeners historically have not donated their excess garden produce because they did not know that they should nor where they could donate because food pantries, usually located in a house of worship or other civic building without a prominent store front, sign or Internet presence, were invisible to the community. Additionally, many food pantries were not willing to accept produce because they thought they would need refrigeration and additional storage. utilizing what in business is called a ‘just in time” strategy, solved all of these problems by creating an easy to use national registry of pantries and by enabling the food pantries to receive and distribute the produce on a same day/next day basis which solved their storage and refrigeration concerns. In short, is diminishing hunger in America not by supplying more food but by using the Internet to insure the best possible use of already available local food sources.”

    According to Oppenheimer, “because’s innovative solution moves information instead of food, our biggest challenge has been attracting the support needed to expand our work. While has been supported in part by individual donors and small foundations supporting innovative solutions, we are increasingly relying on virtual food drives (see an example at held by corporations for their employees and trading partners. These virtual food drives enable to build permanent bridges between food pantries and local fresh food sources in the community rather than relying on recurring requests for money and packaged food.”

    Any food pantry in America that is a non-profit organization and distributes food for free can register itself to be “findable” by local growers at expects to have 10,000 food pantries, or about 1 out of every 3 in America, registered in two years. “It is our goal to enable any gardener anywhere in the country to easily find a neighborhood food pantry when they end up harvesting more from their garden than they can use. With additional support, our programs will include excess fresh food from farms, farmers markets, CSA’s, and even some stores as part of our ‘no food left behind’ vision” commented Oppenheimer.