Plenty: Ending Hunger in America

Defining and defeating hunger in America

By Nancy Rutman

Photography by Christa Neu


Feeding Creativity
Plant a Row for the Hungry (, sponsored by the Garden Writers Association, challenges gardeners to grow extra produce for food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens. Since 1995, gardeners have donated more than 14 million pounds of herbs and vegetables through this program to help feed the hungry.

Community groups such as Scout troops and faith congregations maintain garden plots devoted to raising food for donation. Experienced gardeners may try working with the local food bank or soup kitchen to establish and supervise a donation garden. Volunteer help may be available from surprising sources. At the Second Harvest Food Bank of Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania, for example, youth under the supervision of the Lehigh County juvenile probation department learn gardening skills from the Penn State Master Gardeners who maintain the food bank's garden.

Many small food pantries can't offer fresh produce to their clients because they have no means of storing it, so clients are limited to canned and dried offerings. Community groups could raise funds to buy coolers for these pantries; in the meantime, Ample Harvest ( offers an online "virtual bulletin board" connecting growers with excess produce to food banks that accept it.

Gleaning campaigns like Food Forward (, Village Harvest (, and the Portland Fruit Tree Project ( organize crews of volunteers to rescue fruit and vegetables left behind after crops are harvested.

Farmers' markets are increasingly accepting SNAP cards as a form of payment. If your local market isn't one of them, find out how to encourage it to become one in a free publication from the Project for Public Spaces, available for download at

Governments at the local, state, and national level are getting involved in growing food. Most have heard of the vegetable gardens at the White House and the offices of the USDA, but cities like Des Moines, Iowa, are using the land in neighborhood parks and around schools and community shelters to grow edible crops. Using public space in this way increases a community's food security and access to culturally appropriate and nutritious food. The Healthy Foods initiative at United We Serve (the Corporation for National & Community Service, can help gardeners locate service opportunities or register a project in their communities.

Latest government statistics about food security in America:
USDA Economic Research Service

Information about federal food assistance programs:
USDA Food and Nutrition Service

Information about America's charity food distribution system and updates on pertinent federal legislation:
Feeding America, 35 E. Wacker Dr., Suite 2000, Chicago, IL 60601, 800-771-2303, (click on "Our Network," then "The Studies" to find a downloadable version of the report Hunger in America 2010).

Portal of resources to increase food and nutrition initiatives:
We Can End Hunger

Tips and resources for reducing food waste:
The Society of St. Andrew, 3383 Sweet Hollow Rd., Big Island, VA 24526, 800-333-4597

Plant a Row for the Hungry program:
Garden Writers Association Foundation, 877-492-2727

Learn more about hunger and locate a food bank that offers or accepts garden produce: Ample Harvest, 267-536-9880

Locate or register service projects supporting healthy foods:
United We Serve, Corporation for National and Community Service, 1201 New York Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20525, 202-606-5000