We traipsed a respectful 50 feet behind the farm hands who were harvesting row after row of ripe, rosy tomatoes. We were a motley crew comprised of women, babies, toddlers and teens. We were seeking the stepchildren, the uglies, the left-behinds. Malformed tomatoes with bruises or a bit chewed off by a ravenous rabbit would be our bounty. We were the “gleaners”!
From A Gleaner’s Journal—August 2017
Second Chance Foods is a Hudson Valley nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing unsold, un-served, and aesthetically imperfect food. Their volunteers collect leftover crops from farmers’ fields (gleaning) and distribute directly to community outreach organizations that provide meals to people in need.
The history of gleaning dates back to the Old Testament which says farmers should not pick their fields and vineyards clean, but instead to leave the edges for orphans, widows and travelers. Gleaning is also refereed to in the Bible. Ruth meets her future husband when she asks permission to glean from his fields, which means follow the grain cutters, gathering the seed kernels that have fallen on the ground. For the very poor at this time, gleaning was often the only means of getting food.
On U.S. farms, gleaning is making a comeback, as a national anti-hunger organization has turned to the ancient practice to help feed the poor. Gleaning also gives farmers a way to use produce that would otherwise be wasted
Volunteers also collect food from grocery stores, restaurants and other purveyors in the Hudson Valley Region. Second Chance Foods has a robust Farm to Food Pantry Program which works with HV Farms such as Glynwood in Cold Spring, and Ryder Farms in Brewster. “Last year, HV farms donated 5,000 pounds of produce to us, and we were able to make 4,800 servings of food,” said Martha Elder, Executive Director.
During the growing season Second Chance Foods uses rescued farm produce to create delicious, nourishing food in their licensed kitchen in Brewster, NY. Food pantries then distribute this food to their clients. Volunteers help clean, chop, cook and package the food. Over 100 volunteers cook on Saturdays or Sundays preparing vegetable soups, stir fry veggie packs and sales verde. All food is then frozen before delivery. “Many people coming to the pantries don’t have complete kitchens just hot plates or microwaves,” said Elder. “We make simple, delicious recipes that can easily be defrosted and warmed at home.”
Second Chance Foods also provide programs to raise awareness about food waste, nutrition, and sustainability on a local and global level. Their expansion plans include cooking in different Hudson Valley social service programs where the clients can be involved in the preparation.
Reducing Food Waste in America
An estimated 25-40 percent of the food produced in the United States will never be eaten; about 95 percent of that will get tossed into landfills. There, the waste creates large amounts of methane gas and contributes to the powerful effects of global warming. Meanwhile, one out of seven Americans is “food insecure.” New York contributes almost 17 percent of our country’s waste, while 13.5 percent of the state’s citizens are food insecure.
The Hudson Valley is actively addressing this need. In October, the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park hosted Feeding the Hudson Valley, an event that converted more than 3,000 pounds of potentially unused food (the uglies and excess produce from local supermarkets) into gorgeous, delicious food. “It’s food that would otherwise go to waste,” said Rich Schiafo, Senior Planner of the Hudson Valley Regional Council (HVRC). “It was a very good meal, and people were impressed. HVRC hopes to continue battling this issue by educating culinary entrepreneurs and expanding the network of volunteers who help farmers collect their excess harvest and redistribute it to pantries and soup kitchens.”
The Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orange County also focuses on gleaning with nearby farms. They’ve created a Master Canning program, where food workers and community-rooted residents can receive a Master Canning License, aimed to encourage preserving harvests before they spoil. In Poughkeepsie, Dutchess Outreach's community meal program, The Lunch Box, coordinates with middlemen organizations to pick up extra or unsold food from area colleges, chain restaurants and grocery stores. Their collection of edibles is then used by The Lunch Box to create more than 500 hot meals daily.
40% Of The Food In The US Ends Up In The Garbage-- HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Four local organizations you can join to eliminate edible waste throughout the Hudson Valley:
Second Chance Foods is a nonprofit food rescuer located in Fishkill that gathers unsold, aesthetically “ugly” food and redistributes to community outreach. Connect with them by emailing email@example.com or calling 914-261-0797.
Rescuing Leftover Cuisine is a national organization that takes leftover food from hotels, colleges, catering companies and restaurants and redistributes it elsewhere. To sign up for a time slot with the Poughkeepsie headquarters, visit www.rescuingleftovercuisine.org/volunteer.
The Lunch Box, located at the Family Partnership Center in Pougkeepsie, provides a hot lunch and dinner 5 days a week for anyone who needs one within Dutchess County. Open Monday-Friday and on most holidays to ensure that all Poughkeepsie residents are able to enjoy a decent hot meal. To donate food or find volunteer opportunities go to http://dutchessoutreach.org/the-lunch-box/
Long Table Harvest, based in Germantown, reaches out for volunteers to help transfer harvests for gleaning projects. Get involved by registering to volunteer at www.longtableharvest.org.