Gleaning & Gather Helps Homeowners and Farmers Feed the Hungry
By Jacqui D. Sinarle
If your season’s bounty is overflowing, think gleaning and gathering.
That’s the name of a program operated by Interfaith Ministries that helps homeowners and farmers who have excess produce get it harvested and donated to people in need throughout community. It’s easy, philanthropic, and good for the environment, too. “With the Gleaning and Gathering program, we harvest produce that farmers and gardeners leave behind, with their permission, to feed the hungry,” explained Elizabeth Greenlee-Harrison, CEO of Interfaith Ministries.
In Stanislaus County, 23.8 percents of people live below the poverty line and one in four children go to bed hungry.
“Only two percent of American children eat enough fruits and vegetables,” Greenlee-Harrison added. “According to the United Nations Environmental Programme, 30 to 40 percent of food is wasted each year in the United States.” Since 1963, Interfaith Ministries has provided a variety of humanitarian services in Stanislaus County, including Gleaning and Gathering, as well as a food pantry, home food delivery, a free mobile farmers market, and a community clothes closet. Every year, Gleaning and Gathering volunteers harvest 60 to 70 tons of produce from private orchards and yards, yielding much-needed fruits and veggies that feed local individuals and families and help ﬁght hunger in our community.
“We get lots of citrus, plums, peaches, nectarines, persimmons, grapes, pomegranates, squash, tomatoes, and peppers through Gleaning and Gathering,” said Greenlee-Harrison. “Produce goes through a rigorous quality control process and is washed and bagged according to portions and served in our Feed Modesto Pantry and Homebound Delivery Service for Seniors and the Disabled, or sorted into baskets for some of our Feed Modesto Free Mobile Farmers Market stops in food desert neighborhoods.”
Many are familiar with the Modesto Certiﬁed Farmers Market; however, a new market will be popping up on Thursday evenings on 10th Street.
“The farmers’ market will have some new and interesting vendors, and discussions are in the works to include cooking demonstrations and samples from area restaurants,” said Marie Uber, manager of the Modesto Certiﬁed Farmer’s Market.
The Feed Modesto Free Mobile Farmers Markets, a branch of Interfaith Ministries, has been a hit with residents of the local “food desert” neighborhoods with both low-income populations and limited access to fresh produce. The ﬁrst year of operation the market served over 10,000 people, a far cry from the estimated 300 visitors. The reach of the program has left them with more opportunities to harvest than they have manpower to handle, so volunteers would be appreciated.
The free farmers market, supplied by the Gleaning and Gathering program, stops at health and resources fairs in addition to regular stops at schools and community centers. Produce is provided free to low income families and those who self certify.
“Clients complete a very short form, provided in both English and Spanish, then shop according to family size, preference and what they think they can use,” Greenlee-Harrison explained. “We do set common-sense limits, but rarely have to enforce them.”
Why should you contribute to gleaning and gathering?
“Donations are tax-deductible, and many farmers and homeowners will be faced with food waste issues this summer if they don’t ﬁnd someplace to accept their surplus before it goes bad,” Greenlee-Harrison pointed out. “We take it away at no charge. And as long as it is still fresh, it doesn’t have to be beautiful.” And the harvesting process is easy. As Greenlee-Harrison notes, “We will harvest and leave them as much as they’d like to keep, which is especially nice for some of our elderly donors.”
“Our goal is not only to address hunger and poor nutrition, but also to make it a positive consumer experience for our clients,” Greenlee-Harrison said. “We want the children we serve to grow up feeling like they have ownership of the farmers’ market experience, and we hope these programs tell people that they deserve access to delicious and nourishing foods.
The Feed Modesto Free Mobile Farmer’s Market Stops:
10-11 am: Fourth Tuesday of the month at the Housing Authority on Robertson Rd.
10-11 am: Fourth Thursday of the month at the Airport Community Center at Orville Wright Elementary School.
10-11 am: Fourth Friday of the month at Franklin Elementary School.
For information about the Gleaning and Gathering Program and other Inter faith Ministries services: interfaithmodesto.org. If you’d like to have your produce harvested or you want to volunteer to glean and gather contact Naomi Pulido at IFM 209.572.3117 or email [email protected]