Donating garden produce

Community and school gardens, orchards, farms and home gardens can be great sources of fresh local produce for local food pantries.

Hungry people need good food – and gardeners can provide safe, nutritious food to those who might otherwise go without. Community and school gardens, orchards, farms and home gardens can be great sources of fresh local produce for local food pantries.

Food banks and pantries generally welcome donations of fresh produce from community gardeners. However it is important to check with them before making a delivery to determine if they can accept produce that day, as they may not want 10 more bags of zucchini and you need to know whether they can handle fresh produce at their site.

If gardeners are concerned about liability for donating food – check out the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was signed in 1996. The Act encourages the donation of food and grocery products to non-profit organizations that, in turn, distribute to those in need. This bill makes it easier to donate because it protects the donor from liability when they donate fresh produce. It protects people from civil and criminal liability should the product, donated in good faith, later cause harm to the needy recipient. It also standardizes donor liability exposure and it sets a liability floor of “gross negligence” or intentional misconduct for persons who donate.

Handling produce:

  • Be sure to offer only quality produce to food pantries and discard any that isn’t fresh
  • It’s important to handle fresh fruits and vegetables safely to minimize any risks of foodborne illness
  • To reduce risks, don’t ‘mix produce and keep each item in separate, clean food grade container/bags.
  • Donate freshly picked produce.
  • Donate produce free from mud and dirt as much as possible
  • Donate produce with no signs of mold, spoilage, bruising or bugs

If you have a large donation, call the food pantry a day ahead of time. Find out delivery times and days of operation. The food pantry may have a preferred delivery day of the week and time of day – so you can avoid interfering with other operations. Also note, if the pantry is not able to accept the donation, respect their decision. Pick produce and plan to deliver it as soon as possible – preferably on the same day you pick it for the best use.

Michigan State University Extension recommends that you harvest the produce/vegetables early in the morning while they still have the coolness of the night. If they have dew, wipe them dry with paper towel. Each item should be visibly inspected for serious bruising, insect damage and being too ripe. “If you use pesticides in your garden, always read and follow label recommendations for use of the pesticide,” says Phil Tocco, MSU Extension educator. “Pay particular attention to the “time to harvest after last use,” before you harvest. If you are not absolutely sure that you followed the label when using pesticides, the food should be landfilled and not composted, eaten or donated.”

Do not donate produce that you would not buy for your own family. Produce that is overripe, has mushy spots or is seriously blemished should not be donated.

Package your produce in clean food grade containers or clean bags and take them to the pantry at the requested time. You may want to set up a weekly time schedule with the pantry for additional produce throughout the growing season. For information regarding safely handling fresh produce read the FDA’s Safe Handling of Raw Produce information. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends increasing the selection of fruits and vegetables, as donating fresh produce will assist for all. MSU Extension’s Michigan Fresh has information on recommended varieties, storage, food safety and preserving techniques for fruits and vegetables.

For a listing of organizations and food banks in your area – search the internet or check local telephone directories. Local community service agencies can assist with this, as well as local churches and Michigan Association of United Ways, which are located throughout Michigan.

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources