West Milford, New Jersey (CNN) — For Gary Oppenheimer, 2007 was a year of plenty.
His backyard garden produced a bountiful harvest with a surplus of spaghetti squash, melons, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers for his family. At the end of the season, Oppenheimer had 40 pounds of excess fresh produce — and nowhere to take it.
“Nobody wanted more,” he said. “My wife wouldn’t let me bring any more in the house, and I didn’t want it wasted.”
So Oppenheimer took the produce to a local food pantry at a battered-women’s shelter. When he dropped off the food, he was struck by the response he got from the shelter worker.
“[She] thanked me profusely, and as I left she said, ‘Now we can have something fresh to eat,’ ” Oppenheimer recalled. “That stuck with me because I remember walking away thinking, ‘What? They have canned stuff only all the time?’ “
The experience ultimately led Oppenheimer, 57, to create a way for gardeners across the country to easily share their excess produce with hungry families in their communities.
He reached out to food pantries across the country through social networking, food banks, master gardeners, faith organizations and other groups to encourage them to sign up for inclusion in his database of food pantries. Oppenheimer enlisted the help of Web designers and in May 2009, AmpleHarvest.org was rolled out nationally.
The free online resource enables food pantries to register and be listed in a central nationwide directory, and makes it possible for American gardeners to easily find the local pantries where they can donate extra produce….
To Ample Harvest….