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Have An Overflowing Garden? Feed The Hungry!

Food pantries call for help from the Twin Cities' gardeners.

Late July. It's the time of year that zucchini and melons start to take over local gardens like so many triffids. And sometimes, you just can't scarf them down fast enough, no matter how many potlucks you hold.

That's where Hunger-Free Minnesota is comes in. With a new program called Good to Grow, the local nonprofit is looking for gardeners across the metro area to donate their extra produce to nearby food shelves. 

"No donation's too big, no donation's too small," said Judy Monn, spokeswoman for Hunger-Free Minnesota. "We will always take as much as you can get."

To sign up, just drop Monn and her colleagues a line at good2grow@hungerfreemn.org. All the organization needs is a name and a mailing address. The first 200 to sign up will get a large tote bag to help you haul your harvest to a local food shelf. Hunger-Free will also help donors find nearby food shelves using three search engines posted on their website:

Monn said gardeners can use a simple yardstick to see how far their donations will go. Around 1.2 pounds of food will cook a single meal, she said. A family of four in need can thus eat fresh and eat local on a little less than five pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Even if a gardener is faced with an abundance of a vegetable like kale, that haven't necessarily made their way into most Americans' diets, Monn told Patch that wouldn't be a problem.

"A lot of times food shelves will find that their clients are unfamiliar with some kinds of produce, because they've been unable to afford it or because they haven't seen it before," Monn said. "Kale is the movie star of produce right now, and if they get a bunch of kale in, the food shelf will go ahead and give tips on how to prepare it."

The one caveat, she said, is that some food shelves operate at unusual times, to accommodate their clients' work schedules.

Hunger-Free Minnesota is launching their program while this summer's drought is ravaging local cash crops and pushing food prices upwards. According to a Minnesota Public Radio report, food shelves could be pinched, hard.

Monn called the Good to Grow program's launch a "happy coincidence" in light of this summer's weather, but said it wasn't intentional. 

"Beyond helping the hungry, this gives you another way to get rid of zucchini you can't use, other than playing doorbell-ditch with your neighbors and friends," Monn said. 

"I don't know why people grow zucchini anyway," she added with a chuckle.

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