Gary Oppenheimer, Founder and Executive Director of AmpleHarvest.org
Diminishing Food Waste and Hunger in America
In this week’s Torah portion, Emor, we read, “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger.” In this spirit, we are featuring an organization that works to diminish food waste and hunger in America. AmpleHarvest.org enables gardeners to share their harvests with food pantries instead of letting the food go to waste.
Read our interview below with Founder and Executive Director Gary Oppenheimer.
What is the mission of AmpleHarvest.org?
The mission of AmpleHarvest.org is to end hunger by ending the waste of locally grown freshly harvested food. We also have a separate program called Food Waste Weekend (FoodWasteWeekend.org) to educate and enable clergy of all faiths to learn about the waste of food and then give a faith specific sermon on it.
Why did you decide to start AmpleHarvest.org?
I hate waste. I was one of 42 million gardeners in America who grew too much food in my garden, and was frustrated that I could not donate the excess. My Jewish values background and my technical background allowed me to fix it on a nationwide basis. Food Waste Weekend was created because every rabbi I’ve ever heard a sermon from spoke about feeding the hungry, but never about ending the waste of food as a way to end hunger.
How would you connect your organization to a Jewish text, holiday, value or experience?
AmpleHarvest.org embodies the value of Tikkun Olam, in that the benefit of AmpleHarvest.org’s work is ending hunger while improving the environment – both on a permanent basis. Both of our programs are permanent solutions for ending food waste. If Tikkun Olam can be thought of as “leaving the world better than you found it,” then solutions that are permanent are the ideal embodiment of that.
What’s a story about your organization that is meaningful to you?
People think you need to be rich or a rock star to create large scale change. AmpleHarvest.org proves that the solution to hunger is in your backyard and that you can reach into your backyard instead of your back pocket to help your neighbors in need.
What's the best part of your job and why?
The people I meet – especially when I lecture at a college or university. Also knowing that I’m enabling people nationwide to leave a sustained mark of improvement in their community and country.
What are some non-monetary ways for others to get involved in AmpleHarvest.org?
Make sure that every food pantry in your community joined or will join AmpleHarvest.org. (more at www.AmpleHarvest.org/addpantry)
Help gardeners in your community learn about donating food by posting the gardener flier at local stores and garden shops (www.AmpleHarvest.org/gardenshop)
Visit www.FoodWasteWeekend.org/launch to find material for your rabbi. Encourage him/her to do a food waste sermon on September 6th or 7th of this year.
To learn more about AmpleHarvest.org visit (you guessed it) www.ampleharvest.org