On Nov. 13, founder of AmpleHarvest.org, Gary Oppenheimer, spoke to students and the public at The Grand Theatre on the South City Campus.
Oppenheimer stressed the power individuals have to make change, and he shared how he came up with AmpleHarvest.org and its purpose.
“AmpleHarvest.org aims to enable the millions of home gardeners to take their excess grown food to local food pantries,” says Oppenheimer. “We currently have over 6,500 food pantries across the nation that are a part of this movement.”
AmpleHarvest.org was created in 2009 when Oppenheimer saw the waste of the American food system.
“While growing up, I was taught to hate waste,” says Oppenheimer. “We were taught that if there was food on your plate, you eat it all. When I was overseeing a community garden, there was a lot of waste. I told the gardeners to take the food to the food pantry instead of throwing it away.” Oppenheimer then decided to tackle this issue by starting a program, and AmpleHarvest.org was born.
“Embrace the power of one”
Oppenheimer emphasized during his speech that AmpleHarvest.org was started by one man with an idea.
“Embrace the power of one,” says Oppenheimer. “I’m not any smarter than you. I’m not any richer than you. I’m not Bill Gates. I’m not the president, but I’ve managed to change the food system in the United States. It’s something that any of you could have done.”
Oppenheimer believes that this movement is much bigger than himself. He pointed out that without the growers, AmpleHarvest.org wouldn’t get much accomplished.
“I like to think of AmpleHarvest.org as the conductor in the orchestra,” says Oppenheimer. “The conductor doesn’t move the orchestra, just guides them. AmpleHarvest.org doesn’t touch the food. We provide guidance. It’s the growers across America who are creating change.”
AmpleHarvest.org works directly with Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, and the group has support from many private corporations.
“Google has been absolutely wonderful to us,” says Oppenheimer. “They have a program for non-profits where, if you get approved, you get $10,000 a month in advertising grants. Google started us out at that amount, but has since awarded us with $40,000 per month in advertising grants.”
“This app connects growers to food pantries,” says Oppenheimer. “When they open the app they can learn more about the AmpleHarvest.org program and where the nearest food pantry is.” The app offers gardeners the fastest way to find a food pantry in their area.
“The opposite of hunger isn’t full, it’s healthy”
Oppenheimer went on to speak about the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the United States. Food pantries are ill-equipped to give healthy, fresh food to their clients. AmpleHarvest.org has provided one solution to this problem.
“I’m of the opinion that the opposite of hunger isn’t full, it’s healthy,” says Oppenheimer. “Giving people potato chips may remove the feeling of hunger, but it’s not going to nourish them. By providing fresh food to food pantries, we give people the opportunity and choice to get healthy food.”
Oppenheimer hoped that students walk away with at least one clear message.
“Philanthropy,” says Oppenheimer. “We think of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett as ordinary people who made it rich with one idea and a lot of hard work. Now they are giving all their wealth away. You buy a packet of seeds and give away some of what you grow, and you’re a philanthropist just like them.”