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Program helps gardeners donate food to community

Are you a backyard gardener who wants to donate your extra produce to help feed the community? If so, a new publication has been created to walk you through the how-to's of doing so.

Produced by the Garden Gleaning Taskforce of Hennepin County and funded, in part, by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the 44-page online publication is designed to help increase access to healthy food for those in need by creating collaborations between gardeners and food shelves. It was produced to give food shelf operators, and gardeners in their communities, "tools" to help build a strong working foundation and to facilitate the increased availability of homegrown produce.

"Through our work in the community, we have discovered a rapidly growing interest among gardeners and growers for helping to provide healthy fruits and vegetables to those in need. This publication is designed to not only help gardeners better understand how food shelves work, and how to optimize their food contributions, it also contains useful information for food shelf operators," said Jared Walhowe, The Minnesota Project Coordinator of the Garden Gleaning Project.

The publication, entitled Garden Gleaning: A toolkit for growers and food shelves, contains information on how to get homegrown food to food shelves, how to develop a food donation system within a community garden, elements needed for good gleaning, food safety guidelines and how to pack donated produce. For operators of food shelves, it includes information on the benefits of incorporating gleaning into their program, the elements of a good gleaning program, steps on how to develop a gleaning program in the community, a produce storage guide and tips on how to on how to reach out to gardeners.

To help make the work of gardeners and food shelf operators more efficient, the publication also includes sample checklists, calendars and donation record keeping guides.

Dianne Blaydes, Health Promotion Specialist with Hennepin County, said that although the practice of gleaning is ancient, a sharp increase in Minnesota families experiencing hunger, coupled with low-income households eating fewer than the recommended servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, makes gleaning an important modern tool in helping to alleviate hunger and poor nutrition.

"It is our hope that this toolkit will not only provide information to those who want to participate in gleaning, but that it will serve as a catalyst for creating community-based hunger relief programs and sources of healthy fresh foods for those in need," said Walhowe

The toolkit can be obtained on the Garden Gleaning Project's website at

Funding for The Garden Gleaning Project is provided by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, as part of Blue Cross' long-term commitment to tackling the four leading causes of heart disease and cancer: tobacco use, obesity, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating.