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How To Assist Local Food Pantries

Grow another row in your garden and share the extra tomatoes and spinach with area families this summer.

After months of planning, planting, watering, and weeding, there is nothing more satisfying than looking at one’s bounty of homegrown vegetables and knowing one will eat zucchini until it comes out of one’s ears.

Yes, Virginia, it is possible to get sick and tired of said zucchini, or too many tomatoes, or too many beans. It’s even possible to be tired of too much basil. It's a happy problem to have, but also a bit of a conundrum — what, exactly, can one do with pounds of vegetables?

There’s always graciously gifting family and friends with a bag filled with homegrown goodness, but that wears thin after a particularly great harvest. Do you want your friends see you coming to the door and say “Here she is with even more zucchini. Let’s turn off the lights and pretend we’re not home”? Probably not.

, I garden, and I try to share and preserve what I can. Nothing is wasted, but my family loses its gusto over sugar snap peas after the umpteenth time we have them with dinner. “There has to be a way to share excess produce from my garden,” I thought.

So recently, I came across a list of local food pantries’ most requested items: canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauces, pancake mixes, and other shelf-stable food. It’s also a lot of preserved food.

The storage of fresh fruits and vegetables is tricky for food pantries; if produce is donated too far in advance of food being distributed to families, it will rot. Food pantries are also limited by the physical space allotted for donations. Then there’s the too-delicate skin to consider: zucchini gets cut so easily, eggplants can bruise, and tomatoes can be squashed and splattered if they are not packed carefully in a shallow box.

Despite the difficulties, Kingswood United Methodist Church, Vernon Township and are three local organizations that accept fresh produce for their food pantries.

Kingswood distributes food to families on Thursdays, from 9:30 a.m. to noon. “If people donate fresh produce, we request that we receive it no more than one day in advance,” Charlene Vanderhulst, Kingswood’s administrative coordinator, said. The church’s food pantry assists an average of 40 families per week.

“We never let things go to waste,” Vanderhulst said, noting that Kingswood’s PADS shelter could also use the fresh produce.

Vernon Township, which assists an average of 150 families per month through its food pantry, distributes food on the first Wednesday of every month. Donations of fresh produce are requested no more than two days before distribution.

Wheeling Township also collects fresh produce for its food pantry. Donations are accepted during office hours.

If you want to donate produce, consider growing another row of vegetables in your garden. If you do not have the room, try container gardening. You will be amazed with how many peppers you can pick from one plant, all while supporting families in the area.

“Who wouldn’t love to take something fresh from a food pantry?” Vanderhulst said. 

Indeed.

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