Sharing Summer’s Bounty with our Neighbors

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Tompkins Weekly     6-27-16

By Meaghan Sheehan Rosen

Did you know that 40 percent of food is wasted in America? And if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, behind the U.S. and China? Meanwhile, millions of Americans, including nearly 20 percent of children in Tompkins County, are not sure where their next meal is coming from.

Friendship Donations Network (FDN) and our community partners are working to address both of these problems by collecting excess food that would otherwise be wasted, and ensuring it gets to the people in our community who need it most. Our network of volunteers works year-round to collect donations of edible but unsaleable food from grocery stores, farms, colleges and other food outlets—more than 1,000 pounds each day.

The food is distributed to food pantries, meal programs and community organizations serving more than 2,000 people each week. Since FDN began in 1988, our mission has been focused on fresh, nutritious foods. As such, we welcome the growing season that keeps our volunteers busy with seasonal opportunities, and our program partners well stocked with donations of fresh local produce, which are consistently the most highly sought after items among food pantries.

Having just celebrated the summer solstice, and as we enjoy the many wonderful activities that come with summertime in the Finger Lakes, we are especially appreciative of our local farmers and the bountiful fruits and vegetables that they contribute to our food shed. Our local farmers are valued partners of FDN and the programs we serve.

One of the seasonal roles for FDN volunteers is collecting unsold produce at the end of the Ithaca Farmer’s Market every weekend. The donations of produce are made into healthy meals at Loaves and Fishes, and available at local food pantries throughout the week. We are also grateful to partner with The Full Plate Farm Collective and West Haven Farm to pick up weekly donations of fresh produce that are left over after CSA members pick up their shares. Several other farms donate directly to food pantries in their own communities, giving all community members the opportunity to enjoy the fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Neighborhood Food HubIn 2013, FDN created a new program, Neighborhood Food Hubs, to increase donations of local produce for the programs we serve while making it easy and convenient for gardeners and CSA members to share extra produce with their neighbors. During the first three seasons, local growers donated more than 11,000 pounds of produce through the Neighborhood Food Hubs program.

The 2016 season runs from July 1 to Oct. 1. There are 17 Neighborhood Food Hubs located in Ithaca, Danby, Dryden, Groton, Lodi, Newfield and Trumansburg. At each location a volunteer “hub holder” hosts a cooler that is available one day each week to accept donations of produce. At the end of the day, the produce is distributed at a nearby food pantry, or delivered to the FDN CoolBot (our energy efficient walk-in cooler) at the Just Be Cause Center and delivered to a food pantry the next day. To see a map and full listing of hub locations and schedule, visit

So, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed by the endless blossoming of cucumbers and zucchini in your garden, or your refrigerator is stuffed to capacity with gorgeous greens from your CSA, with no time to process them before your next share arrives, remember there’s a Neighborhood Food Hub nearby to ensure that your beautiful bounty is enjoyed by one of your neighbors, rather than ending up in the compost heap.

Friendship Donations Network has been actively working to reduce hunger and food waste in our community for more than 28 years, but we still have a lot of work to do. Contact us to learn how you can get involved with rescuing food and reducing hunger in your community: call 216-9522; email; or visit

Meaghan Sheehan Rosen is coordinator of the Friendship Donations Network.

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