As fall weather approaches in Adams County, South Central Community Action Program’s Gleaning Project has already shared over 420,000 pounds of food to food-insecure people in the region. And many more pounds of apples, pumpkins, and gourds will be gleaned before the season ends in mid November.
The Gleaning Project, which has helped almost 8,000 people during 2021, collaborates with local farms and the agricultural community to reduce food waste and combat food insecurity at the local level. “It’s a sense of the community coming together. That’s what it means to me; helping the people right in our local community,” said project coordinator Lori Mitchell.
The program relies on a team of 500 to 1,000 volunteer “food movers” each year to glean food from local farms, to transport, preserve, and monitor produce stands, and to share the food with food-insecure individuals. The movers take the produce to over 40 community food pantries, serving people who don’t have transportation. The program also partners with food banks and senior centers.
“Farms could have twenty to thirty percent food waste,” said Mitchell.
The Gleaning Project was founded in 2009 by Jerry and Jan Althoff and was adopted by SCCAP in 2018. There are currently two locations in Pennsylvania: one in Adams County, and the other in Franklin County.
The need for a food assistance has risen greatly during the pandemic with almost twice as much produce shared this year as in 2019. “The community has really stepped up,” said Mitchell, as she noted that the Gleaning Project has begun working with gardens and backyard farmers to help contribute to their produce stand.
The Gleaning Project hosts two fundraisers per year: the Empty Bowls fundraiser, held this year in April, which connects artists that make ceramic bowls and restaurants that provide soup, and the Glean-A-Mania fundraiser held in early August. During the 2021 Glean-A-Mania, over 30,000 pounds of fresh produce was shared in one week.
The Gleaning Project is looking to the future, hoping to expand their walk-in refrigerator to hold more food so they can continue to reach more of the food insecure population and better fill that need within the community.
“I feel very honored to work here and support the people in my community. It’s a feel-good job, believe me. It’s rewarding,” said Mitchell.
Learn more about The Gleaning Project.