Planning next year's garden? Consider donating produce to your local food pantry

Many food banks and pantries welcome donations of safe, high-quality fresh produce.

Green beans.
Photo: Chris Venema/MSU Extension.

With this year’s harvest complete, seed and garden catalogs are already filling up mailboxes. Avid gardeners and farmers are anticipating next year’s growing season. It is best to plan ahead and think about what you are going to grow next spring, summer or fall. While you are in the garden planning stage, consider growing an extra row or two for your local food pantry. As a part of the planning process, check with your local food pantry to see if they would accept fresh produce and, if so, what types. The pantry may have specific guidelines, procedures and standards you will need to follow during the growing season so that the crops are safe and nutritious for their customers. The local food pantry might encourage you to practice Good Agricultural Practices.

If you have decided to be one of these generous growers, Michigan State University Extension has some suggestions that may help in your donation proces:

  1. Check with your local food pantry on what kinds of fruits and vegetables they will accept.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling the produce.
  3. To minimize the risk of foodborne illness, handle the vegetables as little as possible. If you are ill, do not donate produce that day.
  4. If you use pesticides, read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines related to harvest.
  5. Donate wholesome produce.
  6. There should be no mold, no animal or insect bite marks, no rust on the beans and no overripe or mushy produce. If you would not buy it, don’t donate it.
  7. Pick the produce in the morning, so it is as fresh as possible.
  8. Brush off any mud or soil. But do not rinse the crops because that will wash off protective coating and introduce moisture increasing the possibility of spoilage.
  9. Use only food-grade containers and bags to store and carry the vegetables.
  10. Separate the various kinds of produce into food-grade boxes or bags. For example, zucchini squash should be separate from the tomatoes, and peas isolated from radishes or lettuce.

If you have chosen to plant a row or two for your local food pantry, thank you for helping provide safe and nutritious fruits and vegetables to those who do not have enough food.

For more information on ways to make your pantry services safer, visit Michigan State University Extension’s For Food Pantries website

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