ORONO — The University of Maine Cooperative Extension offers advice for gardeners who seek to contribute to their community by donating extra produce.

Top-quality vegetables are welcome at most food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters. However, UMaine Extension officials suggest gardeners call ahead to find out what types of vegetables are preferred and the best times to donate, according to a news release from the extension.

Delivering fresh produce, as well as cleaning and bagging it before delivery, will help ensure that it is used, according to the UMaine Extension publication, “A Donor’s Guide to Vegetable Harvest.” The bulletin also includes information on when to harvest a variety of vegetables for best quality.

For those looking to donate produce, Frank Wertheim, an associate professor with UMaine Extension in York County and director of Maine Harvest for Hunger, recommends vegetables and fruits with longer shelf lives. These “keepers” include winter squash, potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and apples.

Wertheim adds a lot more can be grown and donated depending on timing and the needs of the intended food pantry. He said communicating with the hunger organization to determine its capacity and turnover to recipients is key.

Maine Harvest for Hunger is a University of Maine Cooperative Extension program that for the last 15 years has organized gardeners, farmers, businesses, schools and civic groups to grow and donate produce to food pantries, shelters and other food distribution points in the state.

Since 2000, Maine Harvest for Hunger participants have distributed more than 2,197,000 pounds of food to residents grappling with hunger. In 2015, record-breaking donations of more than 318,000 pounds of food went to 188 distribution sites and directly to individuals.

For more information, visit extension.umaine.edu/harvest-for-hunger, call 324-2814, or email [email protected] or [email protected].

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