The Gleaning Network of Texas Feeds Food-Insecure North Texans : A great volunteer opportunity
By Minnie Payne
Most Americans, including Texans, go to bed at night with a full stomach, but The Gleaning Network of Texas, a nonprofit, grassroots organization, says that there are 33 million Americans who regularly go without food, over 3 million of them being Texans.
The definition of glean is to gather grain left by reapers, or to collect little by little or with patient effort. Susie Marshall, Director of Gleaning Network of Texas, along with many volunteers, is doing just that. “Our goal is to use our state’s existing surplus fresh produce resources to help alleviate hunger and improve nutrition for food-insecure Texans,” says Marshall. The USDA estimates that 20 percent of all food grown in the United States is wasted, either because it’s missed during mechanical harvesting or unfit to be sold commercially
Women, children, the homeless, the unemployed, and the working poor are fed every day because Texas growers and food producers donate excess produce in their fields that will be plowed under or turned into compost. The Gleaning Network of Texas recruits gleaners to go into these fields and orchards to pick the produce/fruit and then transports thousands of pounds to assistance agencies throughout local areas in Texas.
“We not only constantly look for field gleaners, gleaning advocates, field supervisors and agency liaisons, but also for more farmers who will share their crops, as well as local food assistance agencies that are able to accept produce/fruit deliveries,” says Marshall. (Sweet Potato Roundup - photo: Gleaning Network of Texas)
“Monetary donations from individuals, corporations, clubs, churches, and other organizations keep us going, but we also welcome in-kind donations such as printing, truck rentals, and a variety of other items.”
Marshall says that currently field gleaning is poor due to prior farm suppliers going out of business and climate changes over the last two years. Wholesale Nogales Produce, Inc. in East Dallas supplies about 1 million pounds of fruit and produce annually.
In the 12-county area of North Texas, the total population is 6,417,724, of that, 951,777 live in poverty. That’s an average poverty rate of 13.7 percent. Minimum wage for the state of Texas is $7.25 per hour, and Texas as a whole ranks sixth in terms of people living in poverty. Some 18.8 percent of Texans were impoverished in 2010, up from 17.3 percent a year earlier, according to Census Bureau data. Food insecurity includes not having enough food, reducing the quality of food purchased, feeding children unbalanced diets, or skipping meals so children can eat.
The Gleaning Network of Texas spends about 10 cents per pound to glean and transport produce/fruit, provides produce to local food assistance agencies at no cost, and works to increase the quality of nutrition, which creates a healthier environment for education and work.
Two of many organizations, Beth-Eden Baptist Church and Christians on the Move for Christ, both headed by the Rev. Patrick Booker, are grateful for being recipients of fresh vegetables/fruit from The Gleaning Network of Texas. “A great many of the people who receive food are below poverty level and would often go hungry, were it not for The Gleaning Network of Texas,” says Rev. Booker.
Marshall explains that The Gleaning Network of Texas is a small organization using existing resources to make a big impact in the North Texas area and is always in need of volunteers and funds. “I make a plea to Texas growers and food producers, assistance agencies, and volunteers to please come forward.”
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Minnie Payne is the food reporter for Green Source DFW, focusing on DFW stories that include agriculture, the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, sustainable wines, green grocers, community gardens, green restaurants, etc. She’s open to all food story suggestions from readers. She was a writer for Pegasus News and presently freelances for Living Magazine and Frisco Style Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org