July 29, 2009

Gleaning Provides Opportunities for Education

Two days ago I made my third trip to Parker Farms in Virginia to gather fresh crops for our pantry.

I was met by volunteers from Setauket Presbyterian Church. Rev. Jeff Geary, the group leader, brought a group of 8 volunteers to hit the fields with Glean for the City. After two successful gleanings, I am expanding our trips to include education and dialogue regarding food security (similar to the discussions we've been posting on this blog).

I took the opportunity to speak with our young volunteers about food waste, gleaning, and the role that Bread for the City takes in addressing poverty. It turns out Rev. Geary had education on his agenda as well. His church works to educate their youth about commercial agriculture and its exploitative use of underpaid farm workers. He hoped that Glean for the City would provide hands-on example of the arduous task of handpicking crops.

After gleaning 1,000 lbs. of corn, we loaded up the van and took a step back to admire our work. Rev. Geary remarked that a day laborer picking tomatoes in Florida would have made only $10-25 for gathering the entire quantity on his/her own. As we looked out at the endless acres of corn we couldn’t glean, we discussed the utility of this fresh food for our clients.

Glean for the City provided a rare opportunity for education in agriculture. Most of our volunteers had never been to a farm, and none had ever worked in a field. Picking produce is a strenuous activity, and I'm glad we're able to provide this type of exposure to our volunteers while being able to help our clients access nutritional foods.

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