Produce for Pantries Program

According to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau, 42.2 million Americans are living in food insecure households, including 13.1 million children. Food pantry clients are at the highest risk for inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables, as the non-perishable foods that fill the shelves do not provide the nutrients of fresh produce. In order to improve food access in our community, The GardenWorks Project emphatically encourages home and community gardeners to donate excess harvest to food pantries.

There are approximately 42 million home and community gardeners in the U.S., with estimates of 11.47 billion pounds of excess produce annually. Based on estimates that individuals should consume 415 pounds of vegetables per year, the excess produce that can be donated by gardeners could potentially provide vegetables for over 27.5 million people. IMG_5868.JPGHome gardeners in DuPage County can make a difference by expanding their gardens for the purpose of donating their extra produce to a local food pantry. 

Increasing yields is simple with the resources provided by the GardenWorks Project Food Growers Network. We offer our members access to gardening tools, seeds, books, and discounts on seedlings and raised bed garden frames.

To find the food pantry in your area, visit our Community Partners page. 

When you find yourself with extra produce throughout the year, consider donating to your local food pantry. Your produce can inspire more growers and provide healthy food for the 74,000 food insecure in DuPage County. Any amount of produce is helpful and needed.


Helpful Tips for Donating Homegrown Produce


  • The best time to harvest is in the morning before veggies heat up too much.
  • For leafy greens, pull off damaged or yellowed leaves at harvest. Submerge them in cool water to remove heat shortly after harvest to prevent wilting.
  • If harvesting more than 12 hours before you plan to make a delivery, see chilling storage tips below.
  • Not all produce should be washed after harvest, see the guide below.
  • Rule of thumb for produce quality: donate produce that you would eat. Some holes and light damage is okay; no bugs.

Washing/Chilling After Harvest

  • Wash (if needed) and refrigerate: All greens, bok choi, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, leeks, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, parsnips, beans, celery, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, squash
  • Wash but don't chill: Potatoes, sweet potatoes (dry thoroughly and store in dark, dry place)
  • Don't wash, do refrigerate: Peas, corn, okra
  • Don't wash or refrigerate: Tomatoes, garlic, onions

Transporting to the Food Pantry

  • Contact the pantry in your area to ask the days/hours that they accept donations.
  • If possible, bundle produce into 1 pound bags or rubber band in 1 pound bunches. Loose produce is welcome at most places as well, call first to check.
  • Please deliver produce in a clean bin, most pantries will have a bin to transfer it into upon arrival.
  • Send us an email at and let us know what you donated, and to what pantry. It helps us to have an idea of how much produce gets donated from folks in the GardenWorks Food Growers Network.
  • Ask to volunteer at the pantry if you'd like!


Related reading: Ahmed, Selena and Byker Shanks, Carmen. Stop Wasting Food: Ending Hunger by Donating Excess Garden Produce.