Food rescue: Here's how to donate excess garden produce to help the community

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Sep. 14—Can't find any takers for that extra zucchini? Two local organizations have teamed up to accept garden donations, distribute it to the community and cut down on food waste.

Access to Excess, a food rescue nonprofit, has partnered with Five Rivers MetroParks to provide free and fresh produce.

Jen Burns and Chuck Terry of Trotwood founded Access to Excess in 2019 to collect fruits and vegetables that might be wasted and provide it to people with little or no access to healthy options.

"It's a community solution to a community problem," Burns said. "We rescue food that is unsellable but still edible, wholesome food from grocery stores, farms or community gardeners."

Much of the produce collected by Access to Excess is distributed at free produce stands and the rest is given to neighborhood organizations and hunger groups that prepare meals.

Last year the demonstration garden at Possum Creek MetroPark was planted specifically for Access to Excess when the pandemic halted much of the organization's programming.

By the end of the season nearly four tons of food was donated from Possum Creek and other MetroParks gardens as well as from local farmers and gardeners.

MetroParks planted again this year and also encourages community members to donate surplus from their own gardens. This year donations have already surpassed last year's mark.

"This is one way you can really contribute in a beautiful way by giving produce to your neighbor and making sure they have food on the table," Kate Lowry, education coordinator at Possum Creek, said.

Many growers are currently gleaning — finishing the garden for the summer season -and Five Rivers MetroParks has two weekly collection sites for Access to Excess.

Produce donations can be brought to Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and to the Possum Creek MetroPark farmhouse on Fridays between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

No donation is small potatoes — it will be accumulated to give away at a weekly produce stand at the Dayton Metro Library — Trotwood branch each Sunday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and at pop-up stands in the community.

People can choose from baskets and boxes overflowing with peppers, tomatoes, corn, beans and more displayed farmers market style.

There are no restrictions to access the free produce and identification is not required.

"This is an open market and we want it to be beautiful and welcoming to everyone," Burns said. "Our mission is to keep food from going to waste so we encourage people to take as much as they can."

Each Sunday two to three tons of food that would have been squandered is given away at the Trotwood stand.

Burns and Terry, who run the nonprofit from their home and use their own vehicles to transport the food, recently learned the Hall Hunger Initiative, founded by former U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, awarded Access to Excess a $10,000 grant.

Burns said the money will be used to purchase and convert a 14-foot trailer into a refrigerated unit eventually allowing them to expand outreach and double the number of produce stands each week.

The grant validates their mission, Burns said. "This is a game changer, this is a dream."

WANT TO DONATE?

Produce donations can be dropped off at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark, 1301 E. Siebenthaler Ave., each Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and at the Possum Creek MetroPark farmhouse, 4790 Frytown Rd., each Friday between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Information about Access to Excess and ways to donate can be found on their website.

Gardening tips, recipes and produce donation information can be found on the MetroParks Earth to Table Facebook page.

HOW TO FIND A PRODUCE STAND?

Access to Excess holds a free produce stand at the Dayton Metro Library — Trotwood branch, 651 E. Main St. in Trotwood, on Sundays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Pop-up stands appear at schools and business sites in the community and can be found by following the Access to Excess Facebook page.

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to shop for as much as they want. No identification is required.

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