Editor's note: Welcome to a new feature where we'll profile groups out there connecting people to better food access. They might be community gardens, service groups providing meals, farmers markets accepting EBT and WIC, and in this edition, even a 12-year-old baking birthday cakes for homeless shelters. In this series we want to applaud the passionate people and organizations doing meaningful work with food in their communities. Please share tips for others to include in this column in the comments below.

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DC Central Kitchen. [Photograph: dccentralkitchen.org]

  • There are millions of people in the U.S. who don't have adequate access to fresh produce, even at a local food pantry or market. There are also millions of Americans growing their own food in backyard and community gardens, who harvest more than they can eat in a given season. That's where AmpleHarvest.org comes in—the organization works to connect gardeners with food pantries to donate surplus produce and also compile resources on local food pantries for those seeking better meals. The result is less food waste, healthier food available to low-income communities, and people working to feed themselves and their neighbors. Ample Harvest was founded in New Jersey, but works with food pantries across the country.
  • D.C. Central Kitchen is a wonderful organization that combines food recovery, jobs training, and meal distribution to increase food access and employment opportunities in Washington, D.C. The group collects over 3,000 pounds of surplus food a day and uses it to create over 4,500 meals. This food is donated to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and the like. DCCK forms connections with meal recipients and enrolls many in culinary training programs who go on to work for the Central Kitchen's catering service or in other food service positions. Their comprehensive method of addressing hunger and poverty makes this group truly unique.
  • More farmers markets are accepting EBT and WIC these days, but often produce is still prohibitively expensive for low-income individuals and families. The Double Up Food Bucks program, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, helps bring down the cost of fruits and vegetables to better serve this community. When SNAP recipients use their cards at a farmers market, DUFB provides up to $20 worth of extra "food bucks" to be used on Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables at the market. The program operates at over 40 farmers' markets across the state.
  • Urban farming has taken hold across the country, but The Food Project has been harvesting in Boston since 1991. Their three inner-city farms employ local youth in the planting and harvest season, and teach them about agriculture and sustainability in year-round programs. And their suburban farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts, is a 31-acre plot for growing, composting, CSA pick-up, and education. If you're in the Boston area, you can get involved with their volunteer opportunities!
  • Birthday Fairies is led by 12-year-old Anna Koppelman who works with shelters and other service agencies to host birthday parties for young children who otherwise might not have a chance to enjoy cake and presents on their special day. Birthday Fairies, which was recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal, is looking to expand into other neighborhoods.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.

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