Monday, August 04, 2014

Forest Service Employees, Volunteers Glean Cherries and Apricots for Roadrunner Food Bank

The cherry and apricot trees in La Luz, N.M., were still loaded with fruit when a group of U.S. Forest Service employees joined forces with Roadrunner Food Bank and La Montanita Co-op to glean fresh, healthy produce for people in need. Our hosts at the Nichols Ranch and Orchard gave us the opportunity to pick 1,000 pounds of cherries and apricots as part of the Feds Feed Families campaign, a national initiative to help food banks and pantries stay stocked during the summer months when they traditionally see a decrease in donations and an increase in need.  -blog post from Jennifer McDowell in  Roadrunner Food Bank Blog

By Roadrunner Food Bank
La Montañita Co-op, Feds Feed Families volunteers and Roadrunner Food Bank recently 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 ( or call 505.349.8837.

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