Local News

Imperfect Crops Make Perfect Meal for the Needy

Posted November 1, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Every day, families are forced to cut back because they don't have enough to eat. What's worse is that so much food often goes to waste. But one group has found a way to make use of what would otherwise be thrown out.

Small hands making a big difference. It's called gleaning. Volunteers plow through fields picking up produce farmers leave behind.

"It's just a real privilege to come out and make sure this food does not go to waste," explains volunteer Susan Graebe. "Make sure that it can get to people who can eat it."

Leftover sweet potatoes would normally go to waste. Farmers can't sell them because they're too small or they have minor imperfections. But they're just right for local food pantries and other groups that help the hungry.

Gleaning organizer Rachel Gonya says so far this year, food salvaged from the fields has fed more than seven million people.

After volunteers from the Society of St. Andrew are done picking, they deliver the potatoes to groups that will, in turn, deliver them to folks in need.

"We really try to spread out in the neighborhoods focusing on senior citizens and people on fixed incomes," says church volunteer Cookie Coppedge. "There's no need to throw away because it's a sin. I'd rather feed somebody than let them go hungry."

The NC Agriculture Department and the Society of St. Andrew got together a few years ago and started the gleaning project. Last year, they collected over five million pounds of fresh produce.