Gleaners find lots of food for the needy

July 24, 2008 7:35:08 PM PDT
The math doesn't add up for California farmers when high fuel costs and a glut of lettuce on the market are sometimes forcing them to take a loss. A Watsonville farmer participates in a unique program that benefits people who need it most.

Dick Peixoto farms a thousand acres of organic produce in the Pajaro Valley. 12 acres are red, green and romaine lettuce. At today's market price Dick could get about $8 a carton. The problem is that it would cost him about $10 a carton to harvest and ship the lettuce.

"We have the decision to either disc it up and basically put it back in the soil, or see if somebody can use it," said Peixoto.

And that's where Ag Against Hunger comes in. The non-profit enlists volunteers to learn about agriculture and help feed the hungry. They glean produce fields and fruit trees every other weekend from April to November.

"Each field is a little bit different, but it's always going to have enough product that we can take away. There's at least eight bins and we take it back to our cooler and get it to local food banks," said Abby Taylor-Silva, with Ag Against Hunger.

In many cases, a field has already been harvested and volunteers are gleaning what's leftover, but it all adds up. Since 1990 area growers have donated 145 million pounds to Ag Against Hunger.

The fresh fruits and vegetables are funneled to 60 food banks on the west coast, including those here in the Bay Area. The Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose uses the donations to help feed 163,000 people each month.

"It's something they wouldn't go out and purchase. They would supplement with lower quality, less nutritious option so this is essential for our families," said Lynn Crocker, from the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The journey from field to fork involves a lot of people, working in exchange for what amounts to a good feeling.

"There's definitely a lot of families that go there. A lot of children and they're definitely appreciative of all the food we have," said Paulo Machuca, from Loaves and Fishes Family Kitchen.

For Dick Peixoto all it takes is a few volunteers to turn a worthless crop into a priceless gift.

"You know this is a perfectly good product that can go to somebody and make a heck of a great salad," said Peixoto.

www.2ndharvest.net

www.agagainsthunger.org


Load Comments