While home gardeners across NYS are sowing seeds for harvests to come, a Hudson Valley food gleaning program has sprung to action early this year to deliver much needed nutrients directly to local individuals and families.
The need for food assistance is growing while emergency food agencies are closing or providing limited access. The CCE Orange County Gleaning/Food Access Program, comprised of both CCE staff and Master Gardener volunteers, and led by CCE’s Stiles Najac, donned in hand-sewn cloth masks, swiftly modified their typical operations to the new and arising needs of those experiencing food insecurity. Collecting pre-packaged bags of food from TOUCH, a community based public health organization, the team then delivers the bags to homes in need. Since April 2, the team has made 129 deliveries reaching 385 community members. “Food is moving! People are getting fed. Gaps in the system change from one week to the next, one day to the next. Soup kitchens and food pantries are proving to be agile and very effective at finding ways to fill those gaps,” said Najac.
Mobilizing resources to meet food access needs is not a new task for Stiles and the Gleaning Team. For nearly two decades, the program has moved an average of 10,000 pounds of produce a week to emergency food resource providers during the harvest season. During normal operations, the program collects and delivers donations from local farms for the Hudson Valley Food Bank and to local food pantries, soup kitchens, and community organizations using the refrigerated GleanMobile for transport.
The program relies on volunteers and donors. Farmers can donate unmarketable fresh fruits and vegetables, and volunteers can donate time. Learn more and get involved on the CCE Orange County website.