Glean a Row for Your Neighbor
Become a farmer for a day to improve the local food bank’s nutritional stores.
In the spring, we shared how you can plant a row for the food bank. This fall, consider helping your local food bank by attending a gleaning event at your local farm. Your time and strength can provide a better nutritional experience for those who are the most needy. And you can enjoy a day on a beautiful local farm! Lori Diefenbacher shares how much of an impact this program can make.
We had a woman visit one of our pantries who had recently lost her husband and her job. After collecting some rice, cereal and soups from the shelves in the dry goods area of the distribution, the pantry staff directed her to the beautiful market style display of fresh produce from which to choose. She looked at them, in tears, and said “I get fresh produce too?”
People still associate food banks with distributing mostly canned goods. While we do distribute cans and boxes, we are working hard to increase the amount of fresh produce that we distribute.
For a gleaning event, volunteers meet the food bank truck at the farm ready to work for 3 hours. They get trained on how to harvest and are assigned a task for the shift. As soon as we fill all 8 bins on the gleaning truck or when the 3 hours are up, everyone heads home with dirty hands and huge smiles on their faces.The only requirements are volunteers must be at least 7 years old and have a can-do attitude.
Come ready to work hard and have fun. Be ready for a rewarding experience as you enjoy nature’s beauty and rescue fresh produce from a farmer’s field that will be distributed to our neighbors within days of harvest.
I am passionate about working hard to source as much fresh, local produce as possible so that our neighbors in need receive delicious, nutritious food for their families. It is rewarding to know that the hard-working people whom we have the pleasure of serving get to enjoy healthier meals because of the work we do. The last thing a vulnerable person needs is to suffer from diet related diseases on top of their temporary or long-term poverty.
Of the overall food that is distributed, we have increased the percentage of fresh produce to 28%. We have goals of increasing this number to 50% over the next several years.
While any donation to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is greatly appreciated, financial donations rather than donating canned good donations allow the Food Bank to support local farmers by covering the labor and packaging expenses of their donations of fresh produce. Financial donations also support our gleaning program and our Produce to People- mobile pantry program.
I love to tell people about how much fresh produce we distribute through our network of over 400 agencies & 17 mobile pantry distributions every month. People love to hear about all the different sources of our produce such as local farms, farmers markets, local gardeners, retail grocery store donations, local produce terminals, national produce brokers, and Feeding America.
Something that many people don’t realize is that in addition to donations, we also purchase some of the product that we distribute to supplement our donations and meet the nutritional needs of our community. Due to local, regional, and national relationships and economies of scale, the purchasing power of the Food Bank is 5 times greater than an individual purchasing food at retail stores to donate.
The Food Bank partners with local farmers to provide fresh, local produce to families in need. Farmers often find themselves with surplus or unmarketable produce. Our Food Bank staff recruits, trains and supervises volunteers who glean, or harvest, that surplus produce.
Gleaning volunteers get a chance to experience working farms in Southwestern PA, while partnering with farmers to help families in their own community. Gleaned produce is picked up at the farm, taken back to the Food Bank then distributed to a member agency or families at a Produce to People distribution.
There are many ways to get involved at the Food Bank. Individuals can make a one-time financial donation or sign up for recurring monthly donations on our website. Within our volunteer program opportunities include: gleaning, participating in a Produce to People distribution, volunteering for a shift in the re-packing area, helping staff table one of several events throughout the year, and many more.
- Gleans take place weekdays and weekends – June through December
- Maximum 3-hour commitment
- The Food Bank provides training, tools, water and snacks – all you need is transportation to the farm!
- Ages 7 years old and above are welcome with a guardian!
- Gleans are not pre-scheduled – we alert you when a farm is ready!
~Lori Diefenbacher, Produce & Agricultural Programs Coordinator of the Greater Pittsburgh