08 Jan – Gleaning: Where Surplus and Hunger Meet
In the Gorge, 1 in 3 residents are food insecure- yet the produce left in local fields is abundant. Nearly half of the food grown, processed and transported in the U.S. goes to waste, according to Feeding America. With the Columbia Gorge Gleaning Project, we’re connecting those experiencing hunger to the surplus of fresh, local produce.
This fall, 60 volunteers gathered in orchards and fields to rescue nearly 4,000 pounds of apples, pears, kale, parsley, carrots, and chestnuts. The process of harvesting connects people to each other and the land, which is one of the goals of the Gleaning Project, designed and started by a Ford Leadership Institute Training in 2015. The cohort wanted a project that would leave a legacy, and connect residents with one another while also:
- Reducing food waste
- Providing a safe and fun way for adults and children to learn more about where food comes from, and how what we eat impacts our health
- Increasing access to fresh, local food for those in need
- Providing regular opportunities for civic engagement which reduces social isolation
- Creating community and solidarity across sectors, counties, and cultures to increase resilience in our community
Volunteers have been eager to join this program. Jane Palmer, a retired nurse who worked in public health for over forty years, has helped with several gleans this fall. “We know there are families throughout the Gorge that go to bed hungry having missed a meal every day. This project makes a difference,” says Palmer.
Hood River Valley Adult Center is one recipient of gleaned carrots, apples and pears this fall. Amy Mallet, the executive director at HRVAC and Meals on Wheels, says “Having access to fresh, local and nutritious food for our seniors who are on limited monthly budgets is key in helping our seniors age at home and thrive. We are grateful for this program. It’s hard work and they always show up with a smile on their faces and a giving heart.”
Of course gleaning is not the only solution to end hunger in the Gorge. The Gleaning Project is just one of many programs that we manage in an effort to build a resilient, inclusive food system that improves the health and well-being of our community. Hunger is complex and solving it requires digging in and getting our hands dirty.