In honor of AmeriCorps Week, we’d like to introduce you to our three current AmeriCorps
IFFS volunteer Kelley guest blogs about her experience on a field gleaning trip to harvest surplus muscadine grapes in Zebulon, N.C.
The very first time I ever heard the word gleaning was in my 9th grade World History class. I remember thinking - what a great way to use up food that would otherwise end up going to waste!
September is Hunger Action Month. Learn how volunteers help us SQUASH HUNGER every day. Volunteers Bob and Michelle show how they glean produce that otherwise would have rotted in the field and get it into the hands of our neighbors in need.
We're always looking for groups and individuals to help us glean local farmers fields. The idea is simple. Farmers call us when they have extra crops. We bring a farmer-trained volunteer crew, gather the produce, and distribute it to people in need in our seven-county area. Anyone can volunteer at a Field Gleaning. It's a wonderful way to connect, and you can easily make a big difference for our less fortunate neighbors.
AND, we need volunteers to drive trucks to and from gleanings, and on our daily food rescue and food distribution routes!
Sign up to volunteer today, and help us SQUASH HUNGER!
Reflections from a summer spent gleaning, from our pun-loving Field Gleaning Intern Michelle Madeley This summer, I interned with the Field Gleaning Program at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. I helped out as a field supervisor once a week and spent additional time developing training materials. As a graduate student interested in access to healthy foods, working with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle was an incredible experience in learning about non-profit solutions to systemic societal issues like hunger in the U.S.
Gleaning addresses the twin problems of food insecurity and food waste by working with local farmers who have additional crops (due to extra planting, experimentation, crops being ready too early, or crops not looking "market-ready" but still being nutritious and delicious). IFFS brings crews of volunteers out to the fields that farmers donate and we harvest various crops, always working to fill the truck to the brim!
In one instance, the farmer even drove up on a tractor, disc attached, just as we were wrapping up. He asked if we got all that we needed, and I told him that we were indeed done and thankful for all that he contributed! He said, "Great. I'm going to disc up that field now." By the time we were all packed up, he was already getting started tilling in the onion field from which we had just harvested hundreds of pounds of quality onions. So, it was quite a literal example of gleaning healthy, viable food, that would have otherwise gone to waste (or into the soil) if we had not been there!
Beyond the sheer volume of fresh, healthy food we helped redistribute, I was most excited about the community I felt a part of. The people I met and worked with made the experience of interning with the Food Shuttle so rewarding. I will definitely take these memories and lessons with me, and come back to volunteer with the Food Shuttle as often as possible.
Some of the highlights:
Befriending volunteers.It was especially cool to get to know new people from all age groups. I got to work with groups of middle school volunteers from mission groups, families with kids of all ages, retirees, as well as peers. I feel lucky to have met so many great people!
The big laughs and friendly conversations. I'm way into laughing, and every Tuesday that I was out in the field, there were a lot of serious and silly conversations that generated belly laughs resonating across the rows of collard greens or squash plants.
The team spirit. Every Tuesday, I helped facilitate a gleaning in a new field, with a different crop, and a totally new group of people. We always had the same set of tools, but with the different variables, we approached the fields differently each week. Sometimes, people would pair up and discover more efficient harvesting and loading techniques. Sometimes, people would volunteer to rotate loading and harvesting. People helped remind each other about which row they had been harvesting corn from, or offered to carry heavy buckets. There was always a real sense of teamwork and with that comes new and creative problem-solving.
And even the inevitable challenges. I found myself saying, "Every week there is an adventure" because it was true! We got stuck in the mud! We couldn't figure out how to fill the truck with diesel! We couldn't find the field! We didn't bring the right equipment! We found ourselves in fields that had been flooded and found every step we would sink into mud! As I think about these obstacles, I consider them all reminders about flexibility and adaptability. In the end, none of these challenges stopped us or even really slowed us down. We asked for help or we made do with what we had. It's a great testament to the spirit of volunteers and a can-do attitude. Thanks for everything Michelle! We’re excited to see where your journey will take you next. Come back any time!
In just two hours, several hundred people stocked up on free fresh produce and other nutritious food as part of Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s new expansion of Mobile Markets. The market took place at the IFFS’s Hoke Street Training Center in Southeast Raleigh, and is the first of several new Mobile Markets rolling out in low income neighborhoods over the next few months. Hosted in partnership with Passage Home and St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, the Hoke Street Mobile Market served 193 households and 664 individuals. The effort included "Sick or Shut-In" boxes of food for 87 people. Volunteers from St. Ambrose Episcopal Church packed the boxes on-site and delivered to folks who have limited mobility and could not make it to the market.
This is the first of several new mobile markets Inter-Faith Food Shuttle is opening this year in Raleigh, Durham, Zebulon, and Fuquay Varina to get good food directly to our neighbors in need.
What is a Mobile Market?
Mobile Markets are direct distributions of groceries and fresh produce in low income neighborhoods, designed to meet people at their point of need. We bring a refrigerated truck full of food, often including fresh produced gleaned from a local farm the day before (look at those leafy greens to the right!), to a community center, church, or health clinic, where we set up a temporary market. Then folks who need food can come "shop" for free! Each person can choose which foods they would like so they can take home food that they and their families enjoy.
Mobile Markets are efficient and cost effective. Because they do not require a permanent building or permanent staff, location set-up is flexible and hours can shift to weekends and evenings when people who are working are more able to access them.
Many of our Mobile Markets also include "Food Matters" nutrition lessons and cooking demonstrations to help families learn how to prepare the fresh produce they receive in healthful, safe, and tasty ways. It’s all part of building hunger-free communities where all members have access to enough nutritious food for a healthy and active life, as well as the knowledge and skills to utilize it!
Most importantly, Mobile Markets aren’t just about providing access, but celebrating nutritious food and community!
Meredith Bradshaw, who has been heavily involved as a volunteer with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle this past year, is now headed south to intern at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, where she will educate guests about the animals. The following is an appreciation written by Lindsay Perry, IFFS Local Produce Coordinator. As her time with us draws to a close, we celebrate Meredith Bradshaw and her many contributions to our work. I have worked with Meredith through the Field Gleaning program. She first showed up about a year ago to glean collards, and since then she’s been willing to try just about anything that needed doing. She’s tackled numerous gleanings and driven IFFS trucks to pick up food from local farms, as well as for the BackPack Buddies program. She’s stepped up to act as a gleaning Field Supervisor, supervising volunteer groups to glean crops, and represented us at community events.
“What kept me coming back was the passion I saw every member of IFFS and their volunteers had for saving food and providing it to those that normally wouldn't have access to it,” said Meredith. “That and the amazing people I worked with—Dennis and Lindsay to name a few.” Aw, shucks.
What do I think of when I think of Meredith?
- I think of Meredith driving a box truck 10 miles below the speed limit, terrified but willing to drive because we needed her to.
- I think of her cautioning that the truck is getting full and we better stop picking; a voice of reason pushing back against my sometimes crazy desire to pack the truck as full as possible.
- I think of her many ideas and suggestions, adding to our efficiency and capacity.
- I envision Meredith, finished volunteering with us and heading off to her next volunteer commitment at Piedmont Wildlife Center or the SPCA. Seriously, she will pack in two or more volunteer commitments in the same day. Or she will run a 5K race before gleaning. Meredith is the Uber-Volunteer.
Did I mention she bakes? She is often known to bring gourmet vegan treats for the other volunteers and the farmer—great for donor relations!
“The smiles on the faces of the farmers, and the sheer amount of food we were able to bring back every time made it worthwhile,” Meredith explains. “And also made me wonder why there's such a hunger problem in this country. It has all made me a wiser person when it comes to consuming, making, and sharing the plentiful food I'm blessed with.”
Farewell Meredith! Thanks for all your contributions to stop hunger, and may you find success in all your endeavors, and fabulous new organizations to get involved with in Orlando.
Inter-Faith Food Shuttle held its 6th annual “Turkey Takeout” event this past Friday, November 16th , distributing turkeys, fresh produce, bread, and pies for Thanksgiving meals to partner agencies and pantries for 500 families in need across the Triangle area this Thanksgiving. Food is donated by U.S. Foods, Ford's Produce, and other food donors, as well as gleaned from farmers' fields by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle volunteers. This year, we were able to distribute:
- 500 Turkeys
- 1000 lbs of green beans
- 1050 lbs of cabbage
- 3596 lbs of collard greens
- 5000 lbs of sweet potatoes
- 1500 lbs of rice
- 332 lbs of bread
- and 1050 lbs worth of pumpkin pies!
Thanks to Smokey Norris, Matt Blaisdell, and Bill McGehee of U.S. Foods; Melanie West of Ford's Produce, as well as their driver William; Lindsay Perry, our Local Produce Coordinator; the IFFS Warehouse staff (Dennis Wooten, Crystal Green, Lance Coley, and Patricia Wallace); and the IFFS Food Recovery & Distribution staff (Don Eli, Elizabeth Rodgers, Tradell Atkins, and Joann O'Neal) for making this possible!
Among the 25 agencies and pantries receiving food to distribute to families they have selected who are most in need:
- Alliance of Aids Services Pantry, Durham
- Benson Medical Center, where IFFS hosts a Medical Mobile Market, Benson
- Catholic Parish Outreach Pantry, Raleigh
- Church at Clayton Crossing, Clayton
- Community Helpers, Knightdale
- El Vinculo, Siler City
- Episcopal Farmworker Ministry, Dunn
- Family Life Pantry, Smithfield
- Freedom House Shelter, Chapel Hill
- Garner Area Ministries Pantry, Garner
- IFFS School Pantries in Durham
- New Jerusalem - IFFS Mobile Market, Rocky Mount
- Passage Home, Raleigh
- Positive Generation, Princeville
- Regeneration Development, Pine Tops
- Tarboro Community Outreach Shelter, Tarboro
- The Oaks Community, Raleigh
- Universal Outreach Pantry, Wake Forest
While this distribution of food means that 500 more families will be able to enjoy a holiday meal this week, there are still far too many families who will go without. With 1 in 4 children right here in the triangle at risk for hunger, the need in our community is great. What’s more, even as people are going hungry, about 130 lbs. of food per person ends up in landfills (USDA). As a grassroots response to food waste at the local retail and wholesale level, our Food Recovery and Distribution Program collects healthy, perishable food from over 300 donors and quickly distributes it to agencies in the greater Triangle area on 13 refrigerated trucks. Additionally, the excess production of area farms is a rich source of fresh, healthy produce. Our Field Gleaning Program connects farmers who have excess crops with people who need fresh produce. We bring a farmer-trained volunteer crew, gather the produce, and distribute it to people in need in our seven county area.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!
Last week, two members of our Nutrition Education team, Food Matters Coordinator Katherine Moser and Nutrition VISTA Morgan Medders, attended the NC WIC Conference reception, Making a Difference with the NC 10% Campaign held at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center in Durham. The NC 10% Campaign encourages consumers to commit 10 percent of their existing food dollars to support local food producers, related businesses, and communities in order to build North Carolina's local food economy. At Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, we are committed to growing a local food economy that is accessible to all and feeds everyone healthy, nutritious food. At the reception, Katherine and Morgan were able to talk to attendees about Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's proactive hunger-relief programs. They also had the opportunity to talk with WIC directors and nutritionists from across the state about the Shopping Matters for WIC Parents curriculum, which entails guided grocery store tours that help low-income adults to make healthy and affordable choices at the supermarket. Our nutrition education programs aim to educate and empower our neighbors and community to select, grow, and prepare nutritious foods on a limited budget. Participants in Shopping Matters tours learn information and practice skills that help them to understand how to purchase fruits and vegetables economically, save money by comparing prices, and make healthier choice by reading food labels and ingredients lists.
This video about our field gleaning program, which makes local food more accessible by helping to get fresh produce from local farmers' fields into the hands of those in need, was played during the reception.
The NC WIC program also held a food drive at the evening reception benefiting IFFS’s BackPack Buddies program, which provides weekend meals for children in need!
What a great event for raising awareness of the importance of nutrition education and building a secure, healthy, sustainable, and just local food economy as key pieces in the fight to end hunger!