The wisdom of gleaning: Donate excess fruits and veggies, feed a family | TheUnion.com

The wisdom of gleaning: Donate excess fruits and veggies, feed a family

In Nevada County alone, each year thousands of pounds of perfectly good fruit and greens end up rotting in the ground or garbage.

However, since 2011 more than 100 volunteers with Gold Country Gleaners have done what they can to "glean," or harvest produce that would otherwise go to waste.

Now that nonprofit organization has gotten a significant boost thanks to Sierra Harvest, which is now overseeing the gleaning efforts, recruiting more volunteers and donating much-needed fresh produce to the Interfaith Food Ministry.

According to a Feeding America Hunger in America 2014 study and an Interfaith Food Ministry client survey data, 72 percent of client households live at or below the federal poverty line. The average annual household income of Interfaith Food Ministry clients is $13,176 — just over $1,000 a month.

"When you're on a strict budget and trying to feed your family, sometimes fresh produce goes off the grocery list due to the expense," said Phil Alonso, the food ministry's executive director. "The Gold Country Gleaners have been a tremendous resource to our county. There's so much fruit that would have otherwise fallen to the ground to rot. Additionally, there is the health aspect. This program is creating a healthier diet for many of our clients."

This season, Sierra Harvest and the Gold Country Gleaners are making a concerted effort to reach out to more property owners and potential volunteer gleaners with hopes of bringing in even more food. While over 1,000 pounds of produce was donated in August alone, organizers know there is much more out there still going to waste.

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"We'd love to get more gleaning hosts," said Miriam Limov, of Sierra Harvest. "It's easy to sign up at SierraHarvest.org. This program is bringing thousands of pounds of fresh produce to 10 percent of the community in need."

In 2017, the food ministry reported serving an estimated 8,000 people, a quarter of them children, and the effects of hunger are far reaching. A study from the Tufts University Center on Hunger, Poverty and Nutrition Policy found the effects of child hunger can negatively impact cognitive development.

Alonso said a recent gleaning event yielded hundreds of pounds of plums, pears and apples. And not only are goods picked from private properties, an increasing amount of unsold produce from area farmers' markets is now being donated, he added. Recent donors include First Rain Farm, Fog Dog Farm, Harmony Valley Farm, Mountain Bounty Farm, Pearson Family Orchard, Riverhill Farm and six private homes.

"Sierra Harvest exceeded any and all expectations I had when calling to have the excess fruit gleaned," said homeowner Kathleen Parsons. "They were promptly responsive and arrived on time, super polite, friendly and went the extra mile and cleaned up all the fruit that had already fallen and disposed of it in my compost pile. I was left with a tidy yard and a feeling of gratitude that I was helping get food to those in need without doing more than reaching out to the absolute right people."

"Our clients are so grateful when they know they're getting a batch of fresh fruit — some get emotional," said Alonso. "IFM has been a beneficiary of Gold Country Gleaners off and on over the years, but thankfully Sierra Harvest is now breathing new life into the program."

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.

LEARN MORE

If you are a landowner who would like to host a gleaning of your excess fruit or produce, visit:

https://sierraharvest.org/connect/share-your-harvest/