La Montañita Coop, Feds Feed Families volunteers and Roadrunner Food Bank joined forces to hold a gleaning event, collecting 1,000 pounds of cherries and apricots earlier this summer. The produce will be distributed through the Food Bank’s network of partner agencies and programs helping hungry people.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are important in the diet of children, adults and seniors experiencing hunger. Hungry people do not always have the ability to buy produce. Experts say that vulnerable populations are often in poorer health and likely to experience diabetes, obesity and other health issues when they don’t have enough nutritious food to eat.
Gleaning programs can make a difference by bringing volunteers to locations to harvest excess fruits and vegetables on local farms, in neighborhoods with community gardens and other venues to give to hunger-relief organizations.
It started because of a relationship La Moñtanita has with New Mexico farmers. The Nichols Ranch and Orchard near La Luz, N.M., had extra produce. The fruit was ready to harvest, but ranch owners knew they did not have the labor force to pick the produce, or the market to sell the entire crop. Rather than let the produce fall to the ground, go un-eaten and spoil, they opened their orchard to volunteers from the USDA’s Forest Service Albuquerque Service Center and Lincoln National Forest employees to glean produce for hunger relief.
Steve Warshawer, Enterprise Development Director of La Moñtanita said, “Being able to connect local farmers to organizations supplying important sources of food to hungry people has been a remarkable experience for us. If food products aren’t able to make it to a local market for whatever reason, gleaning programs like this can help hunger relief organizations make nutritious food available to vulnerable people.”
In late June, about a dozen USDA and US Forest Service employees and volunteers picked produce at the Nichols Ranch and Orchard near La Luz, N.M. They climbed up and down ladders for two days, generating about 1,000 pounds of locally grown produce.
Jennifer McDowell, USDA Forest Service champion for the Feds Feed Families campaign said, “The Feds Feed Families campaign gives federal employees an opportunity to show their commitment and compassion to their local communities by donating non-perishable food. By volunteering our time to glean produce from local fields and orchards, we have the added opportunity to redirect fresh food that would otherwise go to waste to people who need it the most.”
While Roadrunner Food Bank distributed more than 10 million pounds of produce last year, they also seeks new ways to obtain healthy food. Gleaning programs can help provide a consistent base of nutritious food to supply to hungry people.
Roadrunner Food Bank’s Chief Operating Officer Teresa Johansen said, “One of our roles is to provide as much nutritious food as possible. Working with local farmers and volunteers from the Forest Service gives us a new way to source and obtain healthy food. It is important to maintain a consistent supply of produce for the benefit of nearly 40,000 hungry people we help every week. One way we can keep produce on hand is through gleaning programs and food rescue activities.”
To get involved in future gleaning volunteer projects, contact Candace Rodriguez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 505.349.8837.
About La Montañita Coop
La Montañita Co-op Natural Foods Market was incorporated on September1, 1976 and was managed for three years largely as a collective. The original membership consisted of only 300 families.
The Co-op Distribution Center opened in 2006. It provides access and distribution to wholesale markets for local farmers and vendors.
La Montañita Co-op’s commitment to local food began over thirty years ago with the practice of purchasing directly from area farmers for the first retail store. This history reinforces its regional leadership in the local foods movement. By committing to this work, the co-op seeks to increase the number of medium sized farms and food businesses in the region, thereby fostering a healthier, more sustainable local economy.
Today, over 17,000 families own and support La Montanita Co-op and its five locations around New Mexico. The co-op has nearly 300 full and part-time employees, who receive living wage pay, have a full benefit package, including health and dental insurance, vacation and sick pay, participate in a gain share program.
About the Feds Feed Families Campaign
Launched in 2009 as part of President Obama’s United We Serve campaign, Feds Feed Families was designed to help food banks and pantries stay stocked during summer months when they traditionally see a decrease in donations and an increase in need. In the first five years of the Feds Feed Families campaign, federal employees donated more than 24 million pounds of food to needy families in all 50 states. The 2014 campaign runs from June 1 through August 27. Federal organizations participating in the Feds Feed Families food drive raised more than 59,000 pounds of non-perishable food in the summer of 2013 for Roadrunner Food Bank.
About Roadrunner® Food Bank
New Mexico is ranked as one of the hungriest and most poverty stricken states in the nation. Roadrunner® Food Bank, a Feeding America member, is the largest non-profit dedicated to solving hunger in New Mexico and operates locations in Albuquerque and Las Cruces. Last year, the Food Bank distributed about 28 million pounds of food through its own programs, a statewide network of partner agencies, and regional food banks helping nearly 40,000 children, seniors and adults weekly. Roadrunner Food Bank kept 22 million pounds of food out of landfills last year through its Food Rescue Program. For more information on solving hunger in New Mexico, visit www.rrfb.org, or follow us on social media at: www.facebook.com/roadrunner.food.bank, www.twitter.com/roadrunnerfdbnk or www.rrfb.org/blog.