Gleaning in The Upper Valley

Submitted by Blakely Brown

Volunteers help gather fresh produce for donation to local food banks throughout the Wenatchee Valley.

Seedlings are stretching from soil to sun, the orchards are white with blossoms, and the bees are buzzing in blue, summery skies. Thoughts of the summer unfolding arise; sweet cherries, bright red tomatoes, cold watermelon, and crisp apples. We love to walk into our local grocer or swing through the farmer’s market to see the bright and colorful displays of fresh produce straight from the farm.

Yet these beautiful fruits and veggies are only part of the story. Rewind to the farm they came from. You’ll realize that that perfect apple had a much better outcome than the rest, which may not have been pretty enough to hit the shelves, or were unable to be picked in time to make it through sorting and to the store.

So, what happens to the oval apple or that tiny carrot? Those unlucky fruit frequently end up in the bin or are left hanging on the tree. Yet in reality, they are just as tasty as the rest, and deserve their place out there with their kin! They are begging to be eaten, but because they don’t look just right, they don’t get the chance to fill up hungry bellies.

Recognizing this, organizations across the country have begun to emerge, looking to harvest excess or unmarketable fruit (an act called gleaning), with the intention of getting food onto people’s plates that would otherwise never make it to the store.

Community Harvest gleaning program, a program of Upper Valley MEND, operates seasonally to bring fresh produce into the Community Cupboard and dozens more local food banks throughout the Wenatchee Valley. More than 100 volunteers harvest around 40,000 pounds of food annually from 50 local farms. In monetary terms, the amount of produce saved frequently exceeds $80,000. Additionally, Community Harvest supports local farmers through a grant called Farm to Food Pantry, which allows food banks to purchase fresh produce directly from local farms. This allows for us to have a wider variety of produce than what might be available to be gleaned.

Once June rolls around, Community Harvest goes into full-fledged gleaning mode. We go from farm to farm to gather produce that would otherwise never make it into the hands of those that need it. In light of the current atmosphere, the program may be needed more than ever.

I am this year’s Gleaning Coordinator. I hope to bring in as much gleaned produce as possible, while increasing community connections to make sure everyone has access to fresh, local food.

Healthy food should be available to all, regardless of socioeconomic status. It’s the foundation of life!

The Community Harvest program is seeking new volunteers and gleaning opportunities. If you would like to lend a hand, or host a glean, you can email me at gleaning@uvmend.org, or give me a call at (509) 548-0408.

 

 

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