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Imperfect Crops Make Perfect Meal for the Needy

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

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

"It's just a real privilege to come out and make sure this food does notgo to waste," explains volunteer Susan Graebe. "Make sure that it can getto people who can eat it."

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

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

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

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

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