Overflowing with plenty

Every spring I plant a pretty extensive garden, and every fall I go back to the classroom just as it’s hitting its peak harvest. “Why don’t I time these things better?” I always ask myself. But a garden in upstate New York runs by a very specific clock all its own, and the school year stops for no one.

We eat A LOT out of my garden. Usually about now I’m really getting sick of tomatoes (they’re late this year, so it hasn’t happened yet). The eggplant and string beans and peppers and squash go into stir fries or get marinated and grilled. I make and freeze recaito, a delicious Puerto Rican blend of garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cilantro (my husband is from the island).

If I’m energetic, I also put away some fresh basil pesto, and stow away some frozen parsley, mint, and lovage (a celery substitute). I also try to process lots of chopped tomatoes for the freezer in recipe-friendly sizes.

But I’m far from a domestic goddess when it comes to preserving the harvest. I’ve also been known to just throw tomatoes in a plastic bag in the chest freezer so I can just plop a few into whatever I’m cooking when the time comes. (Hey, it works.) I’ve never canned anything in my life. We eat about half a jar of (someone else’s) jam a year and eventually I throw the rest away because it looks fuzzy.

We’re not big fans of zucchini bread, so the excess tends to get dropped off at the food pantry … if I remember to take it in time. Sometimes tomatoes rot on the counter. Sometimes the lettuce bolts. Sometimes the lovely soup greens have been hole-punched all over by insects by the time I think to pick them, or the broccoli has bloomed and turned bitter.

Frankly, there can be a lot of waste.

The same thing happens in our national food supply. Producers have food that they can’t sell on time. Expiration dates get close. Farmers get too much of one crop and not enough of another.

That’s where the wonderful organization Feeding America (formerly known as Second Harvest) helps. It funds regional food banks and coordinates with the food industry to take that excess and get it distributed to the food pantries and soup kitchens where people who need help with food can get it. The government also often distributes agricultural excess (a product of our taxpayer-funded crop subsidies) through this same network.

And you’d better believe there are people who could use this food. No, you don’t see children starving to death on the streets in the United States very often. If anything, the food-insecure may tend to put a little extra weight on – there’s something about eating plenty when you can, just in case the refrigerator is empty in a few days and you’re not sure how you’re going to get anything to put in it (assuming you even have access to a working refrigerator).

So we have food pantries and soup kitchens. Is this ideal? No. But it’s reality, especially now, when even people who are working more than 40 hours a week at low-wage jobs can’t afford food AND gas AND rent AND utilities AND medicine all in the same month.

Even those with decent jobs may be only one sudden job loss or serious illness or divorce or legal issue away from financial disaster. Meanwhile, our social safety net is at great risk from politicians (if you’d like to help protect it, see this).

That’s why next week I’ll be announcing a special free promotion for The Awful Mess: A Love Story that’s designed to help raise awareness of hunger (September is Hunger Action Month). I’ll then put all my net book earnings for the rest of the month towards Feeding America via this virtual campaign page.

After that, I’m going to continue to give 10% of all my net earnings from Amazon to Feeding America (Hopefully I’ll be able to keep updating that same page so you can watch month by month; keep in mind that Amazon pays authors a couple of months after each month’s sales close).

I think Bert, Winslow, Mary, Annie, Jeanette, and all the good folks of Lawson would approve. (I happen to know for a fact that they all believe in helping their neighbors.)

Psst... if you want to make sure you don’t miss a major free promotion, contest, giveaway, new title, paperback announcement, etc., make sure you subscribe to my book updates list below left or above left (it depends on which page you came in on).

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