Student Volunteers Scrounge Grub

Ellen Hoffman, Editor-in-Chief

Members of Campus Ministry found a new way to donate to local food pantries. It isn’t hosting food drives or donating money: It’s gleaning.

Gleaning, or scrounging, is when people collect leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been harvested or on fields that are not profitable to harvest, according to Kristen Samuels, Community Outreach Coordinator.

“We basically go through the fields and collect what hasn’t been harvested, which would other- wise lay there and rot,” she said. “The produce is still edible and healthy, but sometimes it’s just not aesthetically pleasing so they don’t pick it if they know it won’t be purchased.”

Samuels and other Campus Ministry volunteers got involved with gleaning through alumna Leanne Mazurick. Mazurick works for ampleharvest.org, a company that connects growers with food banks to share the bounty.

Volunteers began gleaning on Mercy Day, Sept. 24. They made connections with Fertile Grounds, an organic CSA membership farm with land throughout Luzerne and Wyoming counties. The products from these areas are distributed and sold at locations like Dundee Gardens, The Lands at Hillside Farms and the YMCA. MU volun- teers glean at a Fertile Grounds farm in Noxen.

The scrounged food goes directly to the Noxen Food Pantry. Samuels said volunteers also pick up leftovers from the Dallas Farmers’ Market on Saturdays to take to Ruth’s Place.

“We chose the Noxen Food Pan- try since they’re incredibly close to the Fertile Grounds farms,” Samuels said.

Volunteers say they need more manpower to get the harvesting done before the frost hits crops. Samuels says it may take days and so the group will work with students’ schedules.

“We hope to have a large crew together to close out the season,” she said. “Toward the end of the month, Fertile Grounds will no longer be picking for their CSA members, so the garden will have lots of leftovers to be picked up.”

Senior Megan Lage decided to participate in a gleaning trip at the last minute.

“It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Kristen Samuels had an extra spot in the van and asked me to tag along,” she said. “I had done volunteer work on a farm before, but I had never heard of gleaning.”

“All we did was pick the crop, so it kind of puts into perspective just how much work goes into the production of crops.”

She said it’s important to note that if volunteers did not do the work, crops will go to waste.

“My family has a small back- yard garden and we always get more than we need, but we never thought about donating fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Lage was glad she was able to drop the collected crops off at the food pantry.

“It was great to see that our work was going toward a good cause.”

Samuels said that the majority of food donated to food pantries consists of non-perishable items and canned goods. Farm fresh items are rare.

“This is an incredible benefit to the community, providing fresh, local, organic product to people in need,” she said. “Receiving fresh produce is few and far between for these places.”

She also notes the high cost of produce, another reason pantries do not regularly supply it.

“It is often not a possibility for people on a tight budget,” Samuels said. “It’s important to have ac- cess to fresh fruits and vegetables so that they can have a healthy diet.”

[email protected]isericordia.edu

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