Junior Scott Van Hooser has a zest for volunteering

April 7, 2021

With over one-third of Americans currently growing produce in their yards, home gardens have become an increasingly popular activity. Marin neighborhoods are filled with lemon trees, blackberry bushes and tomato plants; however, according to Ample Harvest, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing trash by connecting Americans with food pantries, 11.5 billion pounds of garden produce become waste every year. Inspired to find a way to donate this extra food, junior Scott Van Hooser and his two siblings founded Share the Bounty, a nonprofit that harvests fruit and vegetables from Marin residents’ yards and delivers it to the SF-Marin Food Bank in San Rafael, who then distributes it to locals in need of food. 

Picking fruit during a local Tiburon harvest, Scott searches for ripe lemons.

In 2016, Scott’s older brother, Jack Van Hooser, originally started the organization as a social issues class project. It quickly grew into more than the 10-hour community service requirement as his siblings joined him. Over the past five years, Share the Bounty has donated six tons of fruits and vegetables and started a fundraiser to donate money to the SF-Marin Food Bank. Scott is a major contributor to Share the Bounty’s success, and plays a large role in all aspects of the organization, including scheduling, harvesting and delivering produce to food banks, as well as managing the website.

“[Scott’s] good at learning new skills quickly so he can help out as much as possible. He does anything whenever we need it,” Jack said. “Now that I’ve graduated, Scott’s taken on a lot more responsibility.”

On average, Share the Bounty completes one harvest every other week. After being contacted, Scott and his team come to the house with the necessary tools — pickers, clippers and boxes — and leave with as much fruit as possible. The organization also offers contactless bag pickups. Later, Scott drops the food off at the San Rafael SF-Marin Food Bank. One of Scott’s favorite parts of Share the Bounty is the delivery process, where he sees his hard work pay off. 

“Once we collect all the produce, we drive it to the food bank where we drop it off. While we’re [at the food bank], we can see some people who are already taking [what we picked] to the food pantries where members of my community who need it can get food,” Scott said. 

Scott’s passion for helping the community extends beyond his work with Share the Bounty. He also volunteers with Marin County Search and Rescue (SAR) as a Cadet. Through biweekly meetings, monthly training and searches, Scott has volunteered over 400 hours with SAR since 2019. While seemingly different on the surface, SAR and Share the Bounty both allow Scott to give back in various ways and make a noticeable difference. 

“[Volunteering] makes me feel helpful, like I’m a bigger part of the community. With both [organizations], I’m able to impact my community directly. I’m seeing [the effect of] what I’m doing: seeing how it’s changed people’s lives, how it’s saved people’s lives, how it’s improved their lives. That’s why I enjoy community service so much,” Scott said.

Easy to spot around Marin, the Share the Bounty car prepares to deliver food to the SF-Marin Food Bank.

In February, Scott took another step in expanding the organization by starting a Share the Bounty club at Redwood to mitigate food waste. Junior Spencer Barnes, the club’s vice president, is grateful that Scott founded it, as it has provided him with a platform to make his own impact. 

“In my backyard, we have a lot of lemons growing that we’d always waste, and I thought donating them and joining [the club] was a good idea,” Barnes said. “I really admire Scott and how much he wants to help people who are in need. He’s inspired me to get more involved in my own community and be a better samaritan by joining Share the Bounty.”

Although only started recently, the Share the Bounty club already has 13 active members who meet every other week on Tuesday over Zoom and attend local harvests. Scott hopes to expand his team to members beyond his family and the Marin community. 

“I want to make sure that anyone who wants to can volunteer [with Share the Bounty] and help harvest or donate [produce]. I hope to help more people and make [Share the Bounty] more known, so there is less waste from everybody’s backyards,” Scott said.

If you are interested in donating fruit or joining the Share the Bounty club, contact [email protected].

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