i just dont get it!

Mindyw3(5)April 20, 2012

So im trying to get a project going for the local food pantry which is ran by a church non profit. Ive already talked to the city administrators office and they are excited and willing to loan us an acre or two of vacant land right next to the pantry. The plan is to start a garden for the pantry and something else, maybe a low cost csa to help cover costs. We would be able to provide the pantry produce from april to november, something they rarely have. Weird thing is, everyone BUT the pantry and family services seems to be going for this idea. The city administrator seemed not only supportive but excited also. I have to talk to the pantry director today if she actually calls me back, but the three people ive talked to from the pantry and family services were pretty rude and not at all interested. I know they TAKE produce donations but the woman i spoke with yesterday said they might not be able to take produce from a garden...built for them...next to their building.....

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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

Could the program that funds them have restrictions about where they can get the food they give out? Maybe it has to be inspected? You might be able to arrange for that if that's the case. I hope they get back to you and let you know. Try not to get defensive about their "rudeness." They may be dealing with some frustrating limitations on what they can do.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 10:39AM
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Call up another pantry, offer the produce to them. Some small pantries run by churches don't have the refrigerator space for a lot of fresh produce, so it might not be fugheadedness on their part.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 10:42AM
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I planned to ask today about storage and fridge space and see if we can do a u-pick type basket if there isnt enough space. They take grocery store produce and home garden produce as long as you havent used pesticides or herbicides. Which is wierd too because grocery store produce certainly has those chemicals on it. Im open to different pantries but i dont know if the city is. I imagine they want to keep it local and there are about 5 cities that all run together...might as well be the same city, but of course if the land is in papillion they probably dont want the food to all be going to omaha or bellevue. Know what i mean?

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 10:54AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Another thing to consider is that the pantry and family services people deal with some of the more difficult aspects of life here. They may more want to see that you put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. Perhaps they wonder if this will make their jobs that much harder? (Who will be in charge of running this garden? Who will keep out vandals or teens in high spirits? How will the food be accounted for?) It's another thing to keep track of, and who knows maybe some people feel like you are just suddenly intruding into their territory, despite all your enthusiasm and good intentions. Helping other people can be difficult. But worthwhile! And building rapport with the people who will be handling the day to day stuff is probably the first step to really getting the project to take off.

Of course the city admins are all sunshine about it, they don't have to do anything much and it looks great politically. We had something recently where DH was talking to a city official of great enthusiasm about helping raise some funds for local charity using the restaurant. Suddenly the guy whips out his cell phone and calls up the head of a local org. that has spent several years putting together a street festival for the low income neighborhood in the area, years of hard work on the part of the charity. CO tells him that my husband wants to show up at his festival and sell stuff and has so many great ideas about how to make things fun. There was silence on the other end and my husband waving frantically that that was NOT what he had said or intended at all. We still want to contribute, but I think we'll be doing it without the help of the city! Anyway, just thought you would like to know youre not alone navigating between official enthusiasm and groudfloor suspicion. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 11:29AM
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Ya, i told them repeatedly that i wasnt asking for anything from them. That i would be responsible for volunteers and materials. The ONLY thing i might need from the pantry itself is its non profit status to be able to accept donations and materials. This seems to be a common and successful project for pantries across the country.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 11:57AM
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Here's a good program:

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant a Row for the Hungry

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 12:34PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

The regs covering many aspects of exchange or selling home grown produce vary greatly from state to state, even county to county, and can be quite restrictive in some cases. Just ask the folks on the Market Gardeners forum what sorts of things we have to deal with.

You may discover you have to obtain your own non-profit exemption and even liability insurance, certification/inspection, etc. etc. All depends on local regs.

Nothing, when dealing with bureaucrats, is as easy as we think it should be but patience usually pays off in the end.


    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 1:19PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Some small pantries may have problems with receiving, storing, and distributing homegrown produce. Store produce comes in containers made for that particular item. Health regs and such may be a problem. The personnel may perceive it all to be more work for them.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 4:59PM
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I think its just these people because the omaha food bank distributes around 6000 lbs of farmer and home gardner donated produce per week AND i called united methodist food pantry and the director there was ecstatic and when i asked about pesticides she said " hell, what do they think you buy at the grocery store. Come on people, you gotta wash your food anyway!" So she said she would happily accept any produce. The director at the pantry i was originally interested in still hasnt returned my last call even.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 7:16PM
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I am very involved in our local Pantry Southern York County Pantry www.sycpantry.com our pantry has been around since 1982!
Besides generally helping run day to day operations, I am the purchasing agent for our Pantry.

We serve about 1000 local households a year, we have the resources to serve quite a bit more, just trying to get the word out to more people we exist.

I was not involved when our pantry was first established, but our bylaws are fairly specific on what we can and can not do.

The founders were concerned about ingredients and sanitary practices for home made products. I am not allowed to use home made Jellies and Jams, or home canned products including meats and veggies. I am also not allowed to use home processed meats/game, or non commercial fish.

We can use home grown veggies, how ever they are difficult to store so with the exception of potatoes we do not encourage donations of such things. I do not want any of the items we receive in good faith to help others, to end up going to waste, most veggies just do not have the shelf life to fit our program, as we package and distribute our foods.

Believe me if we had better storage solutions I would think a variety of fresh veggies would be a wonderful addition.

So as others have mentioned I think it is a combination of both, storage difficulties (to prevent waste) as well as possible concerns real or not of the previous mentioned concerns. Our pantry is 100% volunteer and we take nothing from the government which allow us much more freedom to do things our way without having to follow any of their rules and requirements. Even with more freedoms, we have to be very careful to assure everything we give to those in need meets certain standards.

Your idea to try and help your local food pantry is an excellent idea. As I am involved in the operations of a pantry, I wish to say Thank You for wanting to do something!In todays current economy more than ever Pantries are helping more people each day. Most of these organizations will welcome your help with open arms be it your labor or donations that fit their specific program.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 11:42PM
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I wonder what would happen if you let the pantry users grow their own veggies instead of trying to donate them yourself. Give them a helping hand and maybe find someone to donate gardening equipment. Might make them feel a little better about themselves by growing it instead of getting a handout.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 11:34PM
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No doubt fresh produce is a big hassle for them, and many of the patrons are probably not prepared to use much of it in any case.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 6:27AM
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If you are in the position to donate fresh, wholesome produce perhaps a pantry isn't the destination you should be focused upon. We have both a food pantry and a kitchen in my area. The pantry takes only non-perishables, but the kitchen where hot meals are served to the needy each day is thrilled to accept donations from local farmers and gardeners. The manager told me that is what they have the hardest time budgeting for and it's a welcome addition not only to the amount of food, but the nutritive value and something the poor can seldom afford to buy themselves. Over the years, I've donated wheelbarrow loads to them of fresh tomatoes and green peppers and many dozens of farm-fresh eggs.

Don't get too excited about any 'grow your own' programs. I also raise starter plants and had a surplus one year of vegetable flats. I was on the phone for two solid days to various churches and groups trying to find somebody..........anybody.........willing to put in a garden to feed themselves. They said they'd take it if I grew it or money would be nice. I finally found a small church who were appreciative and came by to pick up the many hundreds of healthy food plants.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2012 at 9:01PM
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I finally talked to the director and she is on board but she said another student is trying to build a hydroponic set up for them, which i was aware of but which seems to be getting little support from the community. I told her that other pantries have agreed to take the over flow and that wed discuss specifics a little later such as storage capacity, maybe a voucher program etc. She didnt sound excited but she said she was positive on the idea.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 9:23AM
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Because this land is right next to the pantry you should be able to "store" a lot of the vegetables right on the plants themselves. No need to harvest them until they are ready to be processed. Even if a certain percentage rots on the vine you would probably have just as much or more thrown out by being picked, sitting around, and eventually thrown out from not being used in time.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 11:37AM
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Mindy, you say she "didnt sound excited," "hasnt returned my call," "might not be able to take produce."

You are getting a message here in what they are saying and not returning your call, and my suggetion would be to talk to the top person there and very openly and honestly say that you sense some hesitation on their part and that you would like to know what their concerns are. Seriously, you cannot just start the garden hoping they will want the produce. It is just good to get all the issues aired before proceeding.

Is it possible they are getting enough produce from another source?

Good for you for seeking other sources for your produce.

Bless you for all your hard work. I wish you a bountiful garden.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 11:53AM
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bella_trix(z6b SE PA)


Is is possible they are concerned about your ability to follow through with the project? I noticed from your post that you had you first garden last year, so your experience in gardening is limited. Do you have any experience organizing and running something as large as a community garden? If you are unable to manage the garden, the food pantry may worry that they will be stuck with a giant eye-sore next door, associated with their name.

Perhaps you may want to do something smaller first to demonstrate to them that you can follow through, have the ability to manage a project and will stay with what you start. I would suggest organizing a plant-a-row-for-the-hungry project within you community and show that you can bring in produce as you said. They may be a lot more excited once they see what you can do. Your food pantry may have a history of getting let down by people who don't follow through. You may need to build trust with them first.

Good luck with everything,

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 12:58PM
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