But Oppenheimer, founder of AmpleHarvest.org, is a problem solver. He realized that if he was having this much trouble, other people must be too. He created a Web site where gardeners could find local food pantries. In turn, food pantries can register for free on the site.
It is a win-win situation: The excess produce can be placed, and food pantries are now easier to find.
With the volunteer help of Maureen Shryock, who assisted with design and development, and Josh Kopf, a Web designer, Oppenheimer put together a site in two months, launching May 18.
“I always hated wasting resources; it goes back to my childhood,” said Oppenheimer.
If AmpleHarvest.org were to have a prime goal, it would be “to get as much food from America's backyards to local food pantries as possible,” said Oppenheimer.
There are numerous benefits. The donation of fresh produce allows food-pantry clients to eat less highly salted processed food. It has an ecological benefit by reducing global warming; gardeners who throw out produce create a pound of methane gas for each pound of produce in a landfill.
Most importantly, those with fewer means are able to eat.
Shortly after the site's debut, Google became interested and gave them a Google Grant. The U.S. Department of Agriculture got the word out to gardeners. Blogs, like John Bloom's wastefood.com, have also promoted AmpleHarvest. org.
Now there are 1,100 food pantries across the country registered on the site, including local pantry Community Harvest Food Bank.
Claudia Johnson, of Community Harvest, said they have received generous donations all summer long from area gardeners, but she is not sure if the gardeners were using AmpleHarvest.org to find them.
“We have been registered on the site for about a year,” she said.
Fort Wayne Master Gardener Eunice Dietrich says she has not used the service but thinks it's a good idea.
“I have donated extra vegetables to the food pantry at my church, but I knew where to take it,” Dietrich said.
Oppenheimer says most food banks are known in their communities.
What he is hoping to do is help people find smaller food pantries affiliated with churches or smaller organizations.
The Web site helps the client find the food pantry and offers directions, mileage and pictures of the facility, and also the hours the food pantry will receive donations.
The service is free for food pantries and gardeners. All of the work done on the site is on a volunteer basis.
AmpleHarvest.org is a program of Sustainable West Milford, a nonprofit organization.