SoSA West Seeks to Partner with Growers in 2010 Growing Season
The 2010 growing season is finally underway in the Midwest. An overabundance of rain has delayed some crops and stunted others, but the Society of St. Andrew (SoSA) reminds growers that produce deemed unmarketable because it doesn’t look pretty enough to sell can still provide valuable nutrition to people living in poverty. You can call SoSA West at 816-921-0856 and have gleaners come gather that produce instead of turning it under. Those fresh fruits and vegetables will be taken to area food pantries and feeding agencies, and you can earn tax credits for produce you couldn’t sell.
The US Department of Agriculture estimates that nearly 100 billion pounds of food is wasted each year in this country, while more than 49 million Americans live at risk of hunger, including more than 17 million children. The Society of St. Andrew is a hunger-relief nonprofit dedicated to using unmarketable and excess produce to feed people in need.
Established over 30 years ago in the Southeast, SoSA saves food at two main points of large-volume waste: in fields and orchards where fruit and vegetables are left behind by machinery or harvesters, and in packing houses where produce is graded out before shipping. SoSA works with farmers, packers and other produce handlers to get surplus or graded-out produce, and transport it to food banks and agencies that feed people in need. SoSA also coordinates with farmers to take teams of volunteers into fields and orchards after the harvest to “glean” or gather what has been left behind, also for transport to food banks and feeding agencies.
In May 2008, SoSA opened a western headquarters in Kansas City. Located in office space donated by Harvesters, SoSA West works to get produce to food banks and feeding agencies across the west. In the Kansas City area, SoSA West partners with Harvesters to get fresh produce for its agencies and service area partners. To date, SoSA West has obtained over 5 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for Harvesters, its agencies and service area partners.
The SoSA West Gleaning Network is growing, as more growers open their fields to gleaning after harvest, and people learn about this fun and easy community service project. SoSA West works with teams of people from faith congregations, schools, corporations and organizations of all types to go to local farms and glean. From Rotary Clubs to Scouts to Sunday school classes, gleaning makes for a great community service or outreach project.
The 2009 growing season was SoSA West’s first gleaning season, and it was a busy one for the new office. Just under 600 volunteers gleaned just under 105,000 pounds of a variety of fruits and vegetables – everything from apples, peaches, cantaloupe and watermelon to zucchini, lettuce, green beans and sweet corn. Key partners in SoSA West’s local gleaning efforts include Good Natured Family Farms, Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, the Kansas Rural Center and Fahrmeier Farms, as well as Balls Food Stores, Gieringer Orchards and Rasa Orchards.
SoSA West gleaned in Kansas and Missouri in 2009. The operation is expanding to Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Minnesota in 2010. SoSA West is also expanding its large-loads project, also known as the Potato and Produce Project, to include more growers and more food banks in western states. To date, loads have been moved in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico and Arizona, as well as Texas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
To grow its operation, SoSA West needs partners in the produce industry – growers, farmers, packers, transport companies, etc. They also need partners in the funding community – foundations, corporations, individuals and churches that are committed to fighting hunger with fresh produce and are willing to support this mission financially. And finally, SoSA West needs gleaning partners, individuals as well as groups of people willing to gather fruits and vegetables in fields and orchards.
To learn more about SoSA West and become a partner, contact Lisa Ousley or Bernie Schneider at 816-921-0856, by email at: sosawest [at] endhunger [dot] org or gleankc [at] endhunger [dot] org, or go to our website: www.endhunger.org/sosawest.