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Collecting Produce

As the Pleasantville Community Garden progressed, a farmer from our local farmers market offered to give us left over produce at the end of each market.  This started the next important phase of our work.  

We learned that we could greatly increase our produce donations by collecting produce from local sources, such as the local farmers market, supermarkets, and community-based "fresh food" drives. These collections have become a vital part of our work and significantly increased the amount of produce that we are able to donate each week. 

There are many ways to add produce collecting to maximize donations to local food pantries:



Farmers Markets

  • Originally one farmer at our market reached out to us to set up a donation process.  Her rationale was that she only goes to one farmers market each week and ends up composting the food that doesn't sell.  The other farmers told us the same.  The benefit to the farmers is that they don't have to transport unsold food back to the farm and like knowing it is going to help people in need. 

  • In the state of NY, another benefit for the farmers is that they can receive a tax write off for the food donated.  Our organization keeps weekly records of the food donated from each farmer so we can give them a summary letter each year that they submit for tax write off

  • Twice a year, with the farmers market management group, we run Farmers Market Donation Events where we ask customers to buy extra fruits and vegetables from the farmers to donate to us.  This gives the farmers a nice boost of sales and reminds the community of the amazing amount of food donated by the farmers every week. 

  • We have set up an efficient system with volunteer "veggie drivers" and "veggie haulers" who help us gather and weigh the produce donations and then drive the produce directly to food pantries where it can be used. 



  • Produce waste in grocery stores is a huge problem and there is a great opportunity to redistribute produce to those in need. 

  • Grocery store managers need to be approached to determine if the store would be willing to donate produce that getting close to expiration.  There may be concern about the liability of donating, but most states have laws protecting organizations and companies when donating food. 

  • Care needs to be taken to ensure that the produce is fresh enough to be able to donate to others.  The rule of thumb is that food shouldn't be donated that you wouldn't feed to your family.  This is a great way to consider freshness.

  • Once an agreement is made with the grocery store, then a process needs to be created to pick-up the food on a consistent basis and get the food to the food sharing organizations quickly for distribution.

  • Make sure that volunteers are careful lifting the boxes of food, so no one gets hurt 


Food Collection Events

  • We have had great success with Fresh Food drives which are similar to regular food drives, but specifically for fresh fruits and vegetables.  We have run these events at local schools, asking students to bring fresh food items on a specific day.  At the high school, we've been able to work with teachers to give extra credit for students who bring fresh food to class.  Our volunteers then pick up the collected fruits and vegetables and deliver them to the food sharing organization.  Typically these food drives will result in 200 - 500 pounds of fresh food to donate!

  • We have also worked with local organizations, such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, a local tennis club, and the Garden Club, to include a fresh food drive to an event that they are hosting.  For example, we worked with a local tennis club to show a movie about Food Waste to their members and the admission price was a bag of fresh produce.  These events will typically result in 200-400 pounds of fresh food per event. 

  • Finally, we have also promoted our work during town-wide events and celebrations and not only collected fresh produce, but also signed up volunteers to work with us.  These events can be a great opportunity to promote the work of the organization as well as to donate additional food to local organizations and get more community support! 

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