Where to donate your homegrown produce to food shelves

Fruits of the City collects unharvested fruit from orchards and homes that would otherwise go to waste. The program got its start in 2008 when a woman called The Minnesota Project and asked what to do with all the extra apples on her tree. These apples were collected from homes in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Julie Siple | MPR News 2013

Gardening season is in full bloom and most Minnesota food shelves are accepting donations of fresh produce.

Traditional work-based and community food drives tend to emphasize non-perishable foods.

While food shelves receive the bulk of their produce from local farmers, community gardens, larger farmers markets and grocery store donations, most welcome smaller donations.

Demand for food goes way up in the summer as the supply goes down, according to Jennifer Woodford, executive director for Channel One Regional Food Bank in Rochester.

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"Produce is what keeps us going [in the summer]. Not only is it a great source of food but highly nutritious food to our clients," Woodford said.

The Rochester food bank accepts produce donations with the exception of lettuce, because of its short shelf life. It's easier to tell how fresh lettuce is when donated from farmers or grocery stores, Woodford said.

Loaves & Fishes, a nonprofit meal program in Minneapolis, also accepts produce donations among other foods. Because of the amount of food they need on a daily basis, they prefer produce donations in larger sizes.

But Executive Director Cathy Maes said the biggest challenge with donated produce is making sure it's fresh and in good condition.

"Just because you're poor doesn't mean you are fine with eating a rotten apple," Maes said.

There's also a persistent myth that people using food shelves do not want fresh produce, said Sophia Lenarz-Coy, the associate director for Hunger Solutions, a non-profit organization based in St. Paul working towards ending hunger.

"Fresh fruits and veggies are high on the list of things that they wish they had more in their diet, but just can't afford," Lenarz-Coy said.

Lenarz-Coy said that Hunger Solutions monitors the frequency of food shelf visits per year. On average, 9,000 people a day are using food shelves in Minnesota.

Some organizations that accept produce donations in Minnesota's major cities:

• Anoka: ACBC Food Shelf
• Bemidji: Bemidji Food Shelf
• Bloomington: Veap
• Brooklyn Center and Brooklyn Park: CEAP
• Duluth: Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank
• Eagan: The Open Door
• Golden Valley: PRISM Food Shelf
• Mankato: ECHO Food Shelf
• Maple Grove: CROSS
• Minneapolis: Groveland Food Shelf
• Minneapolis: Little Kitchen Food shelf
• Minneapolis: NorthPoint Health & Wellness
• Moorhead: Churches United for the Homeless
• Plymouth: Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners
• Rochester: Channel One Regional Food Bank (no lettuce accepted)
• St. Cloud: Catholic Charities Food Shelf
• St. Paul: Catholic Charities Dorothy Day
• St. Paul: Second Harvest Heartland
• Stillwater: Valley Outreach