September 8, 2009

Huge Day at West End

Last week, Bread for the City received a record amount of produce from the West End Farmer’s market. We stuffed every last produce bin, then stuffed the picking bags we normally use for gleanings, and then farmers gave me 10 additional boxes of produce. Had it not been for my trusty volunteer Meghan, I may have thrown my back out loading over 1,700 lbs of produce into the van.

As usual, the variety was excellent. We brought home squash, cucumbers, beets, greens, corn, eggplants, cantaloupes, tomatoes, fresh bread, and 5 different kinds of peppers.

Altogether it barely fit in our walk-in fridge.

Altogether, the West End market has made a remarkable contribution to our Glean for the City program. In 8 short weeks, we have gathered just under 10,000 lbs. of fresh, free produce. And the process is remarkably efficient. I collect 400 lbs. per hour of work on Sundays, and that includes driving time -- that adds up to enough for 1,000 clients per week, which then allows us to forego purchasing canned alternatives.

It's such an easy, even obvious benefit - and yet, we were surprised to find out that so few other groups have stepped up to claim it! Sharon Gruber, our in-house nutritionist, has discovered that many markets do not have a gleaning partner.

Susan Birchler, the West End market manager (who recently blogged here about our Glean for the City program) told me that she actually reached out to many groups herself, but never came up with a reliable ongoing arrangement. The problem seems to be one of resources. For a charity organization struggling to keep things together month to month, finding a volunteer and a truck for every single weekend can be hard.

Here at Bread for the City -- which operates on a scale hardly matched by other organizations in the area -- we're able to muster those resources. But even that is only made possible by a program like HealthCorps, which has made my year-long service possible. It's a good example of how volunteer resources can be put towards innovative ends. We thank HealthCorps and the DCPCA for making this possible, and encourage all local food assistance charities to dedicate resources toward developing a relationship with your local farmer's market.

No comments: