University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener
Master Gardener volunteers Can Help Provide an Ample Harvest

By Bill Hoffman, NIFA/USDA

As you know, Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" effort calls for Americans both to eat a healthy diet and to exercise more. For many food bank/food pantry clients (approximately one out of every six Americans), access to fresh produce is often limited or completely unavailable. is the ideal solution to get these pantries access to garden produce, previously left composted or left to rot in gardens. is a nationwide anti-hunger effort created by Master Gardener (and CNN Hero) Gary Oppenheimer, which enables millions of Americans who grow food in home gardens to find a local food pantry eager for their garden excess.

Nearly 3,200 food pantries across fifty states are already signed up, with more signing up daily. represents the most extensive list of food pantries in the country.

Please let the gardeners in your state know that they can help more fresh produce get to more people in the community by doing the following:

  1. Be generous with their own harvest. What they grow is their food first and foremost and they should enjoy it, preserve it, and share it with friends and neighbors. However, any additional garden bounty should be donated to a local food pantry (easily found at
  2. Make sure their neighborhood food pantry is registered. If they know of a food pantry in their community that is not yet listed on, they should visit the "Add a Pantry" page to help the pantry register.
  3. Making sure other gardeners know that they too can donate. Gardeners can download and print the flier at and give them to local nurseries and garden shops to be posted where other customers can see it.
  4. Mention on their blogs, Facebook pages, etc.

Many Master Gardener volunteers are familiar with Plant A Row and may have even worked with them in the past. Launched in 1995, Plant A Row is a public service program of the Garden Writers Association (GWA) and the GWA Foundation. Garden writers are asked to encourage their readers/listeners to plant an extra row of produce each year and donate their surplus to local food banks, soup kitchens and service organizations to help feed America's hungry.

It is a wonderful program and has several features that complement it. These include:

  1. is available anywhere in the country that local food pantries register.
  2. It's easily accessed by gardeners any time of the year—even those who didn't plant an extra row but are now faced with an excessive harvest.
  3. It's accessible online, and even from the garden, via a free iPhone app.
  4. It's promoted with a monthly grant of $10,000 for advertising on Google to help reach the maximum number of gardeners.

If the gardeners in your community already know about PAR, the addition of would be a great "one-two punch" against hunger.

Finally, please let the gardeners in your community know that publishes photos of gardeners making produce donations to food pantries. All they need to do is send a photo to of them delivering their harvest. finds that pictures like these help encourage other gardeners to also donate from their garden.

Please do what you can to help spread the word.


Bill Hoffman is National Program Leader for Agriculture Homeland Security for the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. He provides national leadership for the Extension Master Gardener program.


Florida Master Garden logo

Florida-friendly Landscaping(TM) Program logo

The Florida Master Gardener Program is on Facebook