COMMUNITY GARDEN DONATIONS
Community Food Share, in collaboration with Earth’s Table, encourages volunteers and community members to grow and harvest produce for donation. There is an abundance of produce grown every year by volunteer-run, backyard, and community gardens. Often the people growing don’t always know what to do with their excess produce.
After the growing season each year, Community Food Share receives donations of seeds from local stores and packers. These seeds are organized and saved for the spring when they are offered to our partner, Earth’s Table, as well as other volunteers. Local home gardeners are encouraged to plant extra from the free seeds offered to them for donation. Presentations at local community gardens were also offered to inform garden members of the capacity of food banks and pantries to receive fresh produce. Giving more information to the gardeners about the ability to donate fresh produce helps in the summer when they find themselves with extra harvest.
Earth’s Table is a partner non-profit of Community Food Share. Back in 1999, the group of volunteers who still run the gardens today started with one mission: to grow food for hungry people. We encourage volunteers who find themselves without a garden of their own to help out with Earth’s Table in one of their 6 gardens around Boulder. These gardens are located on private land that was generously donated to the Earth’s Table group to use. Produce from these garden sites is donated to Community Food Share and two other partner agencies in the Boulder area. The first year VISTA worked diligently to get Earth’s Table more organized and secure more recurring groups of volunteers to assist in their gardens as they now have more gardens than before. The combination of more volunteer support, as well as more gardens sites, allowed for the 2017 growing season to be their most successful yet.
Community Food Share (CFS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit food bank serving Colorado’s Boulder and Broomfield Counties. In operation since 1981, it is a long-standing hunger relief agency operating as part of the Feeding America network. Last year Community Food Share distributed 10.4 million pounds of healthy, nutritious food to food-insecure individuals and families through 42 partner agencies and pantries, as well as three direct distribution programs. As part of its organizational mission, Community Food Share strives to provide fresh, high-quality food – ensuring that 35% of food product is produce and 40% is high protein items such as milk, eggs, and frozen meat.
In 2016, Community Food Share began the three-year VISTA assignment with Harvest Against Hunger in order to further build out its Garden Share program. Garden Share encompasses several growing and harvesting programs that bring fresh, local produce into the food bank. During the 2017 season, the VISTA brought in 17,300 more pounds than the previous season without the VISTA. Through the Garden Share program, there are three major ways that Community Food Share interacts with the community to secure fresh produce: maintaining relationships with farmers for Farm to Food Bank, utilizing volunteers for the Gleaning Program, and reaching out to backyard and community gardeners through Community Garden Donations. Each of these active networks expands the conversation around food security in Boulder and Broomfield Counties and encourages the community to engage with fresh, local fruits and vegetables.
The Community Garden Donations portion of Garden Share is a collaboration with Earth’s Table, a nonprofit community of gardeners who maintain several garden sites throughout Boulder County. Earth’s Table grows everything from seed to harvest for donation to Community Food Share and a few of its partner agencies. Additionally, Community Garden Donations also encourages home and community gardeners to share their bounty from backyard and community gardens. The second VISTA launched an official Grow a Row campaign throughout the food bank’s service areas to highlight particular ways gardeners could help including particular types of produce to grow, and how to volunteer. The Farm to Food Bank program works with local, regional and state farmers to bring in fresh produce, meat, and dairy items to the food bank. Many of these farmers work with a culled produce recovery program, donating excess product already harvested from their fields. Various local Boulder County farmers have participated in the Monday Produce Pick-Up program, started by the first VISTA, to collect excess produce from farms after farmers market weekends. The second VISTA continued this program and also continued picking up from a local farmer’s market throughout the season. The Gleaning Program works with various farms and landowners to procure the leftovers from a first harvest. Over the past two VISTA terms, farms have contacted Community Food Share and the VISTA communicates with them throughout the season to confirm gleanings. The second VISTA also worked with many local fruit tree owners in gleaning apples, plums, and pears.