Harvest for the Hungry
Transition Sarasota’s harvesting project feeds the community
Hungry local families are eating healthier, and volunteer harvesters are helping the cause, thanks to Transition Sarasota’s Suncoast Gleaning Project. The nonprofit organization’s 2010-founded initiative has already delivered about a quarter-million pounds of fresh, organic produce to less-fortunate families in the community. And last season was the most productive yield yet.
From about late October through the end of May (the main growing season), volunteers glean on most Monday mornings at Jessica’s Organic Farm. The produce they gather is then donated to All Faiths Food Bank and distributed to the public. This undertaking serves the ultimate goal of Transition Sarasota, which is to “create food and economic security by supporting local, sustainable sources,” says Executive Director Janet Lewis.
“Part of Transition’s overlying philosophy/goal is to develop greater resilience in the community, and part of that resilience is developing community relationships,” Lewis says. “The active participation of volunteers that come to glean is a great way for people to get to know our local farmers, come together in a way that supports the community, and develop relationships with each other. I think it’s a win for everybody.”
During the October 2016 to May 2017 season, hundreds of volunteers (and a handful of key partner organizations) set a record by donating 54,066 pounds of produce to the food bank. Local farmers participating in the program received tax deductions based on the amount of produce harvested. And volunteers were invited to take home grocery bags full of produce each week for their labor.
Records were also set last season for the most produce harvested in a single morning (3,334 pounds), as well as the most volunteers helping at any given time (65). More than 216 volunteers completed 33 harvests at Jessica’s and one at Honeyside Farms, contributing approximately 1,710 hours of their time.
“The ripple effect of our work together continues to spread far beyond the Suncoast Gleaning Project, as more and more individuals and institutions begin to recognize gleaning as a viable solution to hunger and a host of other diet-related diseases,” Lewis says.
In addition, All Faiths Food Bank recently added a second Sprout Mobile Farm Market and is currently working on recruiting more local farms to provide fresh produce for those in need. Also, last year the Food Recovery Program of the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services announced it would be launching a pilot program to support gleaning operations in five Florida counties.
“I am extremely proud of all we have accomplished together over the past seven years,” Lewis says. “And I will continue to treasure the many friendships that have been forged out in the fields.”
For more information on Transition Sarasota’s Suncoast Gleaning Project, call 941-702-4769 or visit transitionsrq.org/gleaning.