Neighbors Helping Neighbors by picking fruit

  • Tue May 14th, 2019 2:39pm
  • News

“It doesn’t take much to end up in a predicament,” says Forks resident Cindy Schrader. She’s speaking from experience from a brief period in her life when she didn’t have enough food to eat. “I was a single mom living in Nebraska, living paycheck to paycheck. My co-workers came to my rescue … they bailed me out with sacks of groceries when I was going through some really rough times.”

Nowadays, Cindy has an interest in helping others get healthy food on their table. She signed up to be a gleaning volunteer with the WSU Extension Gleaning Program.

“Gleaning is an old-fashioned word that means harvesting leftover fruits and veggies from farms after the farmer has picked everything they can sell,” explains WSU Extension Gleaning Coordinator Sharah Truett. “It is a way of making use of the extra, and has been around since biblical times.” She continues, “We have a very strong gleaning program in Clallam County with around 300 gleaning volunteers, and about 150 glean sites, most of which aren’t on farms, but in private backyards. The gleaned produce is donated to local food banks, senior programs and after-school programs. Gleaning volunteers are also encouraged to keep some for themselves!”

When asked what drew Cindy Schrader to the program, Cindy says she enjoys “helping others and sharing wealth as well as keeping my costs down by freezing and canning for myself and growing family.”

Cheri Tinker, Executive Director of Sarge’s Place, the homeless veteran’s shelter, would love to see the gleaning program expand in Forks. Cheri says, “I was raised with pioneering spirited parents who believed in eating well-balanced healthy meals.” She notices that “there are lots of gardens and fruit trees and bushes that are laden with food each year that the crows eat. Our veterans at Sarge’s Place, the Forks Abuse Program (a domestic violence shelter), the Food Bank, and Concerned Citizens (which feeds hungry kids in the summer) could all benefit from [gleaned produce]. It’s the epitome of neighbors helping neighbors.”

Sharah Truett explains the set-up of the program: “The way this WSU Extension Program works is that it links up a gleaning volunteer with a homeowner who has a surplus in their yard. The volunteer will pick the extra and then donate at least 1/2 of what they harvest to those in need.” Her favorite part of the program? “Sometimes we host group gleaning events as well, and those can be a lot of fun!”

Truett has made it her personal goal for 2019 to expand the gleaning program in Forks and the west side communities. “We just need backyards to pick fruits and vegetables from, and volunteers to do the picking! Most gleaning right now is done in P.A. and Sequim. We only have about 5 glean sites in the Forks area; I would love to have at least 20 sites on the list. We really need more gleaning volunteers, too!”

Jody Schroeder, President of the Forks Food Bank, has done a lot of harvesting for charity on his own land. “We donate garden excess to the Forks Food Bank and folks at our church: [things like] cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, spinach and kale.” When asked what motivates him, he says, “There is nothing worse, I feel, than seeing food go to waste in someone’s garden when it could benefit some family with hungry children.”

Jody is an enthusiastic supporter for an expanded gleaning program in Forks. He says, “If people have extra food from their gardens, by all means, DONATE IT! If you can’t pick it, call the gleaners. Don’t let it rot on the vine when you can help feed the hungry … Nobody should go hungry.”

To sign your yard up as a glean site, or to sign up as a gleaning volunteer, contact WSU Extension Gleaning Coordinator Sharah Truett at 360-565-2619 or [email protected]